When You Say NO It Means NO

by Selin Tekin, University of Massachusetts Lowell

awarness.i help

Image Credit: http://www.rccmsc.org/community-outreach/awareness.aspx

Sexual assault and rape are two of the vital issues on college campuses and many of them are unreported.It is reported that the annual rate of completed rapes is about 35 in every 1,000 female students. That means with 10,000 female students, as many as 350 rapes may occur during the academic year (Boche & Dincesen, 2014).There are many explanations to emphasize why those two issuesdestroy the sufferers’ dignity. However, telling what makes these problems is very hard, yet crucial. In essence, they are out of individuals’ control, undesired, and they result in the devastation of self-esteem (UK Center For Research On VAW, 2011).

To prevent the assault, the first step is to understand the issue.

 What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual violence takes many forms. Domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, even sexist jokes or harassment are all considered to be sexual violence.Sexual assault and rape are sometimes used as interchangeable terms for forced sex and they are also defined as sexual violence (Boche & Dincesen, 2014).

According to U.S. Justice department and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN):

Sexual Assault: “Unwelcome sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape.”

Rape:“Forced or nonconsensual sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.”

Ecological theories recognize that human behavior is shaped by factors at multiple levels, including peer and community environments. Sexual violence researchers and interventionists can capitalize on the successes in these fields by applying ecological prevention strategies to the existing multilevel concepts of sexual violence etiology (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).

Components of Ecological Prevention

There are six components of its application in the sexual violence field. The first component is comprehensiveness. This component can be conceptualized as implementing change strategies at two or more levels simultaneously such as, educational presentations, media campaigns, and small-group psycho-educational programming. For example, violence against women prevention is being delivered in many of these ways on college campuses (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).

The second component is community engagement. This component is centered on the participation of community members in the implementation of intervention strategies.It is defined as partnering with community members in the process of identifying targets for designing accompanying change strategies. In the state of Washington, for example, sexual assault programs that receive federal rape prevention and education funds are required to incorporate community engagement activities. Community engagement strategies included facility policy changes, staff education, and sexual violence educational programming for agency clients (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).

The third component is contextualized programming. This component is defined as designing intervention strategies that are consistent with the broader social, economic and political context of communities.Contextualized prevention cannot occur without engaging community members to identify their beliefs about the contributors to and likely solutions for sexual violence. The prevention efforts created for communities, such as colleges, would allow greater adaptation to the concerns,and will eventually facilitate the engagement of trusted, credible community members as deliverers of interventions (Casey & Lindhorst,2009).

The fourth component is theory based.This component is not limited to the ecological models. The program designed by Heppner and colleagues (1999) is a method of intervention that combines social-psychological theory and attitude formation with theElaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), which aims to concentrate attention to the core message of the intervention. The ELM suggests that attention is increased by several factors: personal linkages with the intervention content, opportunities to evaluate the content, and motivation to get involved. The evaluation results indicate that rape supportive attitudes targeted with the program decreased through a 5-month follow-up assessment of the participants. Heppner and colleagues linked the expected attitude change with a theory, which offers a mechanism for that change. In so doing, they provided a testable, replicable intervention, which will be duplicated and tailored for other groups (as is cited in Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).

The fifth component is health and strengths promotion. This component consists of simultaneous efforts to enhance community resources and strengths together with addressing risk factors. Banyard and colleagues (2007) developed a bystander approach for sexual violence prevention. This program trains college students to recognize potentially problematic situations and intervene in sexually coercive interactions. After two months, the trained students reported decreasing rape-supportive attitudes and beliefs, and significant increases in positive bystander behavior when compared with the students in the control group (Banyard et al., 2007).

The sixth component is toaddress structural factors. This component is described as targeting structural and underlying causes of social problems for change rather than individual behavior or symptoms of larger problems. Addressing structural contributors to rape may work best when done in partnership with community members who can identify the underlying factors that support aggressive behavior is their specific environment (Casey & Lindhorst, 2009).


Selin Tekin is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Banyard, V.L. (2014). Improving College Campus-Based Prevention of Violence Against Woman a Strategic Plan For research Built On Multipronged Practices and Policies. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 15(4), 339-351

Banyard, V. L., Moynihan, M. M., & Plante, E. G. (2007). Sexual violence prevention through bystander education: An experimental evaluation. Journal of Community Psychology35(4), 463-481.

Boche, R. & Dincesen, A. (2014). Sexual Assault [Required Prevention Education]. Retrieved from:  https://www.mystudentbody.com/Default.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fMembers%2fStudent%2fModuleSelection.aspx%3fcourseID%3d28&courseID=28

Cambell, R. (2008). The Psychological Impact of Rape victims. Amrican Psychologist, 63(8),702.

Casey, E. A., & Lindhorst, T. P. (2009). Toward a multi-level, ecological approach to the primary prevention of sexual assault prevention in peer and community contexts. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse10(2), 91-114.

RAINN. (2009). Retrieved from: https://rainn.org/get-information/types-of-sexual-assault/sexual-assault

UK Center For Research On Violence Against Women, (2011). Retrieved from: https://opsvaw.as.uky.edu/sites/default/files/01_Needs_of_Rape_Survivors.pdf

Four Important Considerations in Conducting a Needs and Resource Assessment

By Aimee Coombs, University of Massachusetts Lowell


Image Credit: https://secure.surveymonkey.com/_resources/29396/38399396/00272643-0a80-481b-b61c-092d2a26a16a.jpg

An important competency, that is essential to supporting other competencies, is conducting community needs and resource assessments. A community needs and resources assessment is defined as, “a comprehensive analysis that examines the historical and existing context, conditions, assets, and capacity of the community to respond to a community issue (Scott & Wolfe,  2015)”.  This assessment helps to guide the actions, and decisions made on behalf of the community once the knowledge of the issues that need attention have been determined. Once the issues have been identified, all involved in determining resolutions that will benefit the community can come together and mobilize a plan that will benefit all in the community.

In regards to the community needs and resource assessment, I have listed four important considerations in conducting the assessment that I feel will help influence the manner in which assessments are done, and help to ensure positive outcomes.

  1. Participatory evaluationwhich is defined, “as a collaborative process of systematic inquiry, actively engages stakeholders in all phases of the assessment, and has with the shared goal of utilizing information to support action in addressing an issue (Scott & Wolfe, 2015)”. Considering this perspective in the assessment process allows for all of those involved and affected by the issues being addressed to have a say in defining the issues and solutions that will bring about changes wanted within the community.
  2. Prevention oriented approach looks at, “potential antecedents (i.e., precursors) that serve as risk or protective factors associated with behaviors of interest in the community are examined as part of the assessment (Scott & Wolfe, 2015)”. Utilizing this perspective helps to not only to consider the current state of issues but to also consider future probability of how the issues may stand in the future and what the needs and resources will be needed then.
  3. Ecological perspective,“recognizes the interaction between individuals and the multiple social systems in which they are embedded (Scott & Wolfe, 2015)”. This perspective allows for the needs across several socio-ecological areas to be considered. Having this perspective allows for a broader view of the needs within the community to be integrated as part of a whole.
  4. Action-focused assessment is the goal of the assessment to support a collaborative process that enables informed decision making for planning and taking action on issues that matter to the community (Scott & Wolfe, 2015). Taking this perspective encourages everyone that is involved utilizes the data gathered toward meaningful resolutions that will benefit all.


Using these skills and perspectives helps a community psychologist to ensure that when conducting the community needs and resource assessment that the best interest of the community is addressed and that all areas of the community are included as part of the whole. Community psychologists should strive to apply the ideas presented when doing the assessment to help guide the actions needed to be taken, and decisions needed to be made, for the communities they work with.



Aimee Coombs is a graduate student in Autism Studies program at University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Scott, V.  &  Wolfe, S.M.  (2015).  Community Psychology Foundations for Practice. United States of America: SAGE



Cross-Cultural Competence in Autism Studies

By Emily Sullivan, University of Massachusetts Lowell


Image Credit: http://justenglish.me/2013/04/22/avoiding-cross-cultural-faux-pas/

I believe the Cross-cultural competence in Community Psychology is among the most important. It emphasizes the ability to work effectively with different groups of people. With a nearly infinite number of cultures, groups and communities that exist today, community psychologists are unable to reach a level of mastery within this competency(Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.116). While this was a competency developed strictly for community psychology, I believe it would be beneficial to explore its application in different fields of psychology, such as Autism Studies. As a graduate student in the UMass Lowell Autism Studies program I can see real ties between this competence and the work I am doing as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) practitioner in the Autism Studies field as well as in my education pursuits. There are three key components of the Cross-cultural competence, culture, social identities and privilege and power, which relate directly to Autism Studies(Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.116).

Culture is made up of behaviors, beliefs and institutions (Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.117). I believe that for this examination we can think of autism as a culture. It is a disorder characterized by a set of restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviors or interests sometimes accompanied by maladaptive or challenging behaviors. There are also commonly held beliefs, whether positive or negative, about people with autism. These beliefs differ significantly between those with autism and their families and those who remain unaffiliated. Finally there are institutions set in place to either help or hinder individuals with autism. The cross-cultural competence emphasizes that it is extremely important to think of a culture as more than just a label, because labels highlight differences between groups and limit within group diversity(Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.117). I think this is an important idea to keep in mind in the field of Autism Studies. Labels are stigmatizing and create more distance between groups. I believe ABA practitioners and Autism Studies students alike should develop competence in this to bridge the gap between cultures (those individuals with autism and those without) and help create a more meaningful and lasting impact on individuals with autism.

The social identities component of the cross-cultural competence discusses self and social perceptions and how these are shaped by culture, history or context(Scott & Wolfe, 2015, p.118). I believe an understanding of this component is important in Autism Studies as well as in Community Psychology. It is important when working with or studying individuals with autism to understand self and social perceptions and how they influence their social identities. Disabilities such as autism tend to carry around stigmatizing labels. It is important to understand these social perceptions while keeping in mind how the individual or close family views the individual. This understanding will help ABA practitioners change negative perceptions and hopefully make self perceptions individuals with autism have create a larger impression on their social identity. Perhaps in this realm Community Psychologists could be recruited to help change negative perceptions along with cultural ones that shape the social identities of individuals with autism. I believe a collaboration could create some lasting and meaningful change.

In terms of the privilege and power component of the cross-cultural competence, I think it is easy to relate it to autism. Our country’s history is one that has devalued individuals with disabilities. Therefore, privilege and power has historically and in many cases today is still kept with neurotypical individuals within a community.Understanding this disparity is extremely important within the field of Autism studies, as advocating for these individuals with autism is a large part of what is necessary to be an ABA practitioner. Often times a lack of privilege and power leaves individuals with autism vulnerable for predatory behavior and exploitation. Through understanding this competency practitioners and Autism Studies students could take the necessary steps to ensure that this does not happen.

The cross-cultural competency is important within the field of Community Psychology, but could also be useful in other fields such as Autism Studies. The key components of this competency culture, social identity and privilege and power can clearly tie into Autism Studies and could help practitioners be more effective. Through examination of the cross-cultural competence in Autism Studies, I believe that it would be extremely useful to be used within this field. Based on many similarities between Autism Studies and Community Psychology, collaboration between the fields could have important positive effects on individuals with autism and some of the adversity they face.


Emily Sullivan is a graduate student in the Autism Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.


Scott, C. V, & Wolfe, M. S. (2015) Community Psychology Foundations For Practice. Thousand Oaks,

California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Theater: Entertainment and Then Some

By Jackie Marcoux


Image Credit:  http://www.springawakeningthemusical.com/wp content/uploads/2014/05/066-kqkrya3-783×1024.jpg

The world has been viewing theater for hundreds of years.  It started with the Greeks and the goal of teaching their communities life lessons.  As the art form grew the goals shifted.  Theater was a mode of entertainment; a place to go for a few hours to forget about the poverty that awaited you back home in 1500’s England.  The goal of entertaining a crowd of people has continued into the present.

Today, we still wish to be entertained when we sit down in the theater but we are also prepared for more.  We want to feel emotions and connect with characters who are different from ourselves.  This idea has been utilized by some artists as a mode of change within the world outside of theater.  I’m not exactly sure when the shift began but we are just starting to see its ripples.

For me it began with the musicalRENTRENT brought a spotlight onto the issue of HIV and AIDS in a way that had never before been done.  People were able to sing along with the songs and connect with these characters.  We may not be diagnosed and dying of AIDS in the early 1990’s but we can certainly imagine we are and realize how important the issue is.  A dialogue was started.

Then came Next to Normal, a musical about a family coping with a matriarch who has delusions of her dead son and is bipolar.  This show paved the way for a discussion about mental health issues and the toll they can take on a family.  There were conversations about whether or not people should be medicated in order to deal with the issue.  The children of these parents were also focused on and questions about whether or not it is healthy for them to live with a parent that has a diagnosed mental illness.  These questions and concerns didn’t just disappear when the show left Broadway.  Every time the show is performed around the country these questions get thought about by the communities that see the show.

Currently on Broadway there are multiple shows continuing the idea of theater starting conversations and making impacts.  The play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime speaks to autism.  The musical Fun Home deals with LGBT issues and suicide.  Matilda is a musical dealing with abusive adults.  Spring Awakening is a story of teens learning about sexuality in 1600’s Germany.

On a recent trip to New York City I was able to see Spring Awakening.  In the current production of the show, originally staged by Deaf West based in California, the deaf culture has been incorporated into the show’s storyline.  The entire production is done in American Sign Language and has selected certain characters as deaf.  This adds a new dimension to the show because not only is it discussing young people discovering their sexuality in a world that tried to hide them from it but it also deals with being a deaf person, particularly at that time in history.  It allows for conversations about sexuality, deaf culture, and the ability to be inclusive of all people who want to go to the theater.

Community Psychology is all about working towards addressing issues of social justice but that can only happen if conversations about those issues are started.  Theater is no longer a vacuum where the viewer simply goes to be entertained.  Viewers are being force to look at themselves and the world to find meaning in what they just watched.  In order to find meaning those dialogues occur and may be begin working towards fixing the issue.  Sure, some people will continue to go to the theater just to be entertained and to forget about the world for a little while.  It is my hope though that more theater will be created that forces the viewer to think critically about an issue and potentially lead to positive change.


Jackie Marcoux is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.