Engaging male university student leaders in the adaptation process of the One Man Can Intervention (OMCI) to inform sexual violence prevention strategies in student residences: a case study

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Sexual violence is a human rights violation, which affects physical, sexual, reproductive, mental and social well-being. The overwhelming burden of sexual violence is borne mostly by women and children at the hands of men. The university environment is no exception, and the impacts of sexual violence on students are multiple and complex. The extent of sexual violence in universities in South Africa is largely unknown, but local media allude to its common occurrence. University residences have been identified as communities at risk for sexual violence globally, and recent developments in primary prevention interventions for sexual violence globally and in South Africa provide opportunities to address this issue among university students. The focus of this thesis was on primary prevention, recognising that men are part of the solution. Male university student leaders residing in residences were engaged in a participatory process of adapting the One Man Can Intervention, which is a South African community-based primary prevention intervention to address Gender Based Violence and spread of HIV infection. The One Man Can Intervention has never been adapted for use with university students and although numerous sexual violence prevention interventions have been implemented and found to be effective in higher education institutions in other developed countries, no primary prevention interventions have yet been reported within South African university residences. The aim of this study was to identify and describe the process of adaptation and implementation of the One Man Can Intervention with male university students to inform primary prevention strategies against sexual violence within university residences. A qualitative research methodology was used to conduct this study, using a case study design. Process evaluation was used to understand the case. Participants included 15 student leaders from five male university residences who participated in the series of workshops, which evolved into the adapted intervention. The study used focus groups, direct observations, participants' reflections and semi-structured interviews. Thematic data analysis was used to analyse the data. The adaptation process led to development of a new intervention of six workshops, named by the participants 'Men With Conscience', which indicated ownership of the adapted intervention. The findings suggest that through participation in a series of six workshops, which addressed issues around gender norms and values, societal pressures for men's behaviour, understanding rape, bystander intervention and fostering healthy relationships, change was shown to be happening in the young men over the period of participation. Participants were challenged to think critically about sexual violence; they reflected on their role as men in prevention of sexual violence; they reached a turning point after they understood what rape meant and they called upon themselves to become accountable for prevention of sexual violence within the university structures and beyond. This case study and qualitative data provide some evidence of how men can engage in discussions to prevent sexual violence. The study concludes with seven recommendations: sexual violence prevention policies for the university setting; dedicated resources and funding for prevention of sexual violence interventions; incorporation of a public health approach to prevention of sexual violence; testing and implementation of the Men With Conscience model at universities in South Africa; curriculum development; and engagement of male students in prevention and training of student leaders on sexual violence.