Program Impact

Evaluation of sexuality and violence prevention programs is a crucial aspect of ensuring the programs are useful to the participants and that the stated objectives of the program are met. It is also an important aspect of accountability to funding bodies and organisations that host programs. The development of rigorous evaluation of sexuality and violence prevention programs is in its infancy in Australia and New Zealand. However, both the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation in Australia and the Center for Disease Control in the USA provide important guidelines on the importance of rigorous evaluation of programs.

The Sex & Ethics Program has actively engaged in several types of evaluation since its inception. Throughout the six weeks of the Program, participants are provided with multiple opportunities to discuss their responses to activities and the impact it has on them personally. In addition to this process evaluation the Sex & Ethics Program collects anonymous written feedback from educators who deliver the Program with young people. However the most important aspect of our evaluation method is to collect surveys from participants in the Program at three time periods – at the first session of the Program and again at week 6 of the program. This allows us to assess the knowledge and attitudes before the Program begins and to compare this with the same surveys completed in the final session. However, we go further than this and follow up all participants 6 months after they have completed the Sex & Ethics Program. This is an important aspect of our commitment to high quality sexuality and violence prevention programs. We want to know if the Program is meeting the needs of men and women who participate and what ongoing impact if any it is having on their lives.

Since 2006 we have been collecting data from all participants in the Sex & Ethics Program that has received government funding. This has included data collected from diverse populations including men and women from youth services in city and regional locations, university residential colleges, specialist services for lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and queer young people (LGBTQ); trainee elite footballers and from a very culturally diverse population including Aboriginal, Maori, Pacific Islander and Asian young people.

Go to the Publications page for the most recent program's impact and results.

Address

Professor Moira Carmody (PhD)
Diversities, Ethics and Education Research Leader, School of Social Sciences & Psychology
University of Western Sydney AUSTRALIA
 
EMAIL: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  ph: +61 2 9772 6175

Background

Early beginnings

The Sex & Ethics Research and Education Project began in 2005 when Professor Moira Carmody from the University of Western Sydney, Australia and Ms Karen Willis (OAM) from the NSW Rape Crisis Centre in Sydney submitted a joint application to the Australian Research Council. Funding was provided from 2005-2008 to conduct research with young women and men aged 16-25 years of age across the state of NSW. We wanted to understand their experiences of sexuality and violence prevention education, how well it prepared them to begin their sexual lives and the issues they faced in negotiating sexual intimacy in casual or ongoing relationships.  

We interviewed young women and men from rural and metropolitan areas and they told us that current sexuality and violence prevention education failed to prepare them for the complexity of sexual intimacy including issues around consent, sexual negotiation and pressured sex. The young people felt existing programmes focused primarily on risk and danger and excluded positive skills for ethical intimacy.
 
These findings informed a pilot of the 6 week Sex & Ethics Education Program in rural and metro areas across NSW in 2007/8. The Program was formally evaluated and refined slightly. Sex & Ethics provides young women and men aged 16-25 years of age opportunities to learn new ways of negotiating sexual intimacy based on a sexual ethics framework developed by Moira Carmody. As an alternative, the Sex & Ethics programme focuses on promoting ethical non-violence skills that assist young people to negotiate sexual intimacy positively.

Further developments

A key aspect of the Sex & Ethics Program is the opportunity for personnel who work directly with young people to receive training in how to deliver the Program. People from a range of disciplines and settings have participated in the 5 day training we offer. This includes people from: sexual assault and rape crisis services, youth services, sexual health; women’s health; football educators; university counsellors and educators working with specific population groups such as LGBTQ or particular cultural groups such as Aboriginal or Maori or Pacific Islander peoples. Once they have received training they are then supported to go out and run the Program in their local communities.

Research on the effectiveness of the Sex & Ethics Program is ongoing. Since 2008, funding has been obtained to deliver the Program in Wellington, New Zealand; with diverse youth and sexual assault services across Sydney and rural NSW; in Western Australia, Tasmania and with trainee footballers from the National Rugby League in Queensland and in university residences.

Programs that attracted government funding have all participated in a three stage formal outcome evaluation to understand the impact of the Program on the lives of young people during and 6 months after the Program is completed. See ‘What participants say ‘page to find out what people think about the Program.

To find out more detail about the Sex & Ethics Program go to the Publications page where you can download free copies of articles and find information on how to purchase the Sex & Ethics books.

Does the Sex & Ethics program work?

Does the Sex & Ethics program work?

Feedback from the young people who took part in 6 groups in 2007 in rural and city locations showed the program had a significant impact on their lives. Unlike many other violence prevention programs, Sex & Ethics focuses on developing the skills of young people to negotiate ethical sexual relationships.

A comparison of young people’s confidence levels around sexual negotiation taken before the group began and at the end of the six week group indicated statistically significant increases in the confidence levels of young people in articulating their own needs in a sexual encounter or relationship compared to how they felt at the beginning of the group. Even higher levels of improvement were found in relation to understanding their partner’s needs. These changes were maintained at 6 months following completion of the program with 82% reporting using ideas learnt in the sexual ethics group and 74% indicated used skills learnt in the group. 61% of participants indicated using ethical bystander skills since the program ended taking up issues of community responsibility raised in the programme and being active participants in standing up against sexual violence.

Data is currently being collected from the 2009 groups to assess the impact on this wider group of young people’s lives.

If you wish to find out more about the evaluation strategies please contact Moira Carmody on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What Participants say

  • I have talked to my female friends about casual sex and ways to avoid negative situations. But in particular out drinking I have mentioned to a few male friends the risks they take with ‘hooking up’ with intoxicated females. I have also taken intoxicated girls home in a taxi before they can be put in a situation they are either unable to control or do not want to be in. (Alphia, aged 19, from a regional area)
  • Negotiating what I was comfortable with in terms of a physical beginning to a relationship. I felt that the workshop gave me space to really decide what felt right for me in a physical relationship and to use this to find something that would work mutually well with my partner and I. I felt comfortable with this approach. I feel that it worked well and both my partner and I gained what we wanted from the experience. (Gail aged 21, from a regional area)
  • I have been much more willing to open up to my partner, being honest about my thoughts and concerns. I have also not been nervous to ask my partner sexual questions. (Ruth, aged 19, from the city)
  • I pay closer attention to what my partner wants and clearly indicate my expectations before (my emphasis) going home with someone. I have a better appreciation that some people find it difficult/impossible to express what they really want/like, and I use steps to try and find out what these are. (Marty, aged 20, from a regional area)

  • I have certainly been more aware of my girlfriend’s body language since partaking in the group. At one time I noticed stiffness in her persona and was able to discern that she was not as ready as I was for some aspects of our relationship and we were able to talk it out and find common ground. (Dave, aged 24, from a regional area)

 

 

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