Community actionists: Understanding adult bystanders to sexual and domestic violence prevention in communities

Victoria L. Banyard, Andrew J. Rizzo, Katie M. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objectives: Researchers and practitioners are becoming increasingly aware that domestic and sexual violence (DSV) can be addressed at the community level by involving bystanders (or actionists, a term used to specify third parties who help as opposed to those who stand by). Because most research on DSV actionists has been conducted in secondary and higher educational contexts, little is known about actionist behaviors in towns and neighborhoods among adults. The current study examines how groups of actionists with differing levels of proactive and reactive behaviors related to DSV prevention vary in their community perceptions. Method: We surveyed 1,623 adults (age range = 18 and above; 95% White; 52% female) across 4 rural communities in New England using direct mail methods. We asked participants about their perceived opportunities for taking action in the face of acute DSV risk and about any such actions they had taken in their communities during the past year. We also asked about participants' perceptions of community prevention-related social norms. From these data, we calculated prevention action ratios that resulted in 3 groups of actionists: nonresponders, occasional responders, and frequent responders. Results: Individuals who more consistently responded to DSV reported positive perceptions of community social norms and processes. The most involved group of actionists had stronger perceptions of injunctive community norms. Conclusions: Results suggest that prevention strategies that aim to change social norms among adults may enhance prevention outcomes in communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-541
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


  • Bystander
  • Domestic violence
  • Prevention
  • Sexual violence
  • Social norms


Dive into the research topics of 'Community actionists: Understanding adult bystanders to sexual and domestic violence prevention in communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this