MKit developers hope app curtails sexual violence on campus
ANN ARBOR—Most university sexual violence interventions target incoming freshmen, which makes sense, since first-year students are most at risk.
But it also means the initial intervention may not be reinforced for those students in subsequent years—something researchers at the University of Michigan School of Nursing hope to change.
MKit is a new web-based app that provides relationship and dating information to students at all levels, said Michelle Munro-Kramer, assistant professor of nursing.
She and her colleagues piloted the app with students at two residence halls during the 2017-18 school year. The app uses a life-skills approach to address healthy relationships and sexual violence, providing students access to information on mental and reproductive health, conflict management, substance abuse, career planning and relationships.
By incorporating a holistic life-skills approach, the app addresses a range of student needs that can impact healthy relationships, Munro-Kramer said.
“Eventually, the hope is that all of the students will have access to this, both undergrad and graduate,” Munro-Kramer said. “And this framework could be easily adapted to other universities across the country.”
It’s estimated that one in five women and one in 16 men experience sexual assault in college. According to the U-M Annual Report Regarding Prohibited Conduct (July 2016-June 2017), there were 218 instances of prohibited sexual conduct reported for that period. This includes sexual misconduct (which encompasses a variety of behavior, from unwanted sexual comments to sexual assault), intimate partner violence, stalking and gender-based harassment.
The state of Michigan recently passed new legislation that requires all students to receive education on sexual violence annually, Munro-Kramer said.
The hope is that the MKit intervention will help change the behavior of both victims and perpetrators, she said.
Students in the pilot study typically used the app twice, which wasn’t as often as researchers had hoped, but they did refer to the app with questions, Munro-Kramer said.
Roughly 28 percent of users reported in the beginning that they had been victimized, while 5.4 percent said that they had perpetrated violence.
“We are interested in measuring that in a longer study of freshmen through seniors,” Munro-Kramer said.
Future work will evaluate the MKit app in a multisite trial within multiple universities.
MKit was adapted from another intervention created in the lab of Rob Stephenson, U-M professor of nursing. Researchers partnered with the Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Center and University Housing on the pilot study.
The work is supported by a MICHR KL2 grant and a 2017 State of Michigan, Department of State Police Campus Sexual Assault Grant.
The app and results of the feasibility study will be presented at the annual meeting of the Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International Sept. 26.