People who watch primetime crime dramas on TV are more likely to step up and help a victim of sexual assault, according to Washington State University researchers.
The study suggests shows like CSI or Law & Order may be helping educate the public about sexual assault and, in doing so, creating and encouraging positive responses to stop it.
Previous research indicates that crime dramas include nearly six violent acts per hour, about a tenth of which are related to sexual assault. Stacey Hust, associate professor of communication with the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications and lead researcher, said at least some episodes also featured bystanders intervening before the crime or who came forward to help after the crime was committed.
From there, researchers set up a survey of college freshman. After controlling for previously identified factors known to influence intentions to intervene in sexual assault situations, the data indicated increased exposure to crime dramas was associated with increased intentions to get involved.
According to U.S. Department of Justice figures, nearly one in six adult women and one in 30 adult men will experience sexual assault within their lifetime.
"Increasing bystander intervention is critical to sexual assault prevention efforts," Hust said. "Bystander intervention both creates an environment in which sexual assault is not tolerated and an environment supportive of victims - both of which are necessary to eliminate sexual assault."
The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Health Communication.