What is the research question(s) being addressed in the study?
The article did not directly state the research question, but clearly stated that the goal of the research is to gain a “…better understanding the nature of unwanted advances and touching toward women in these contexts, the feelings these behaviours provoke, and women’s strategies to deter perpetrators” (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017, 1420). This was further explained by presenting an objective and two hypothesises in support of this goal. The objective was the documentation of the “…serious incidents of unwanted persistent advances and unwanted sexual contact” (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017, 1423) that women experienced in public, social situations, how women coped with this, the strategies that they used, and, specifically, if unwanted attention was persistent sexual advances or touching. The two hypotheses for the study were the following. First, that women were more likely to leave the public social situation when there was unwanted touching, and that this was because of their direct and aggressive response to the negative feelings this behaviour produced. The women, however, but would not leave if there was simply an unwanted advance. Second, if the women exhibited “direct or aggressive refusal strategies and leaving” (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017, 1423), this would be “positively related to strong negative feelings and negatively related to positive or neutral (e.g., flattered) feelings” (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017, 1423). In other words, negative feelings drove their behaviour.
How did the author(s) collect their data for this study?
The data was collected by selecting women in two ways, that is, women were recruited individually and women were recruited in groups, by intercepting these women on the street as they were going to bars. The women were differentiated by if they were pre-drinking or if there were group influences. All women were invited to complete an online survey. Only women were asked about being a targeted for unwanted advances and physical touching, participated in the survey. Only the individual subjects were presented with incentives, a quick survey and then were asked to take part in the online survey. The sample with same-sex groups were asked to do a survey, on the spot, at a mobile research lab both before and after going to the bar; then these individuals were given escalating financial incentives at both times, plus an inactive credit card first lab visit that would be activated if they did an online survey (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017, 1423).
How did the author(s) analyze their data for this study?
The authors used Hierarchical Linear Modeling to test differences in the responses because of the valid statistical inference that is included in the analytical method. The Hierarchical Linear Modeling controlled for nesting in groups, as the “primary unit of analysis was …. unwanted sexual advance” (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017, 1426). This response had to be understood in the context of the experiences of both the individual participants and the grouped participants. The collection methods also impacted the analysis in that the second group of subjects were interviewed both before and after entering a bar. This suggests that the experiences in the bar would have been very present and authentic in their responses. This would add an added validity to the input from this group of subjects.
In your opinion, what were the strengths of the methods used to both collect and analyze the data? Explain.
The strength of the analytical method was the use of the Hierarchical Linear Model, which controlled for the complexity of the key measurements that would provide the data that researchers were looking for and which the researchers could analyze. Specifically, the researchers were looking to analyze the data based on unwanted sexual advances. The researchers then mitigated this against the type of participant and the participants relationship to a group if in the second round of subjects selected. The three-level Bernoulli regression analysis in conjunction with the Hierarchical Linear Model provided for the extraction of the needed data.
The strengths of the collection method relate to identifying the subject on their way to a bar, whether individually or as a group. This selection process would provide a control group that was, therefore, specifically in a situation to possibly experience circumstances that would provide evidence to examine the hypotheses that the researchers were testing for. As well, providing incentives would also enable a reciprocal relationship between the subject and the researchers, thereby ensuring that a good portion of the individuals approached would actually complete the online survey.
In your opinion, what were the limitations of the methods used to both collect and analyze the data? Explain.
The online survey would prohibit the ability to probe to truly understand how the research participants themselves defined unwanted persistent advances, unwanted sexual touching, and predatory behaviour. A definition for the latter term would be very pertinent to the hypotheses particularly because such a definition would better correlate to the participants’ responses and perceptions of negative feelings, if pre-drinking, drinking or not drinking. This is particularly relevant because later in the paper there is a reference to unwanted sexual touching that the authors state “…meet legal definitions of criminal assault” (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017, 1432). Also, some of the research studies referenced, for example, the study regarding the street intercept method, but without providing an adequate definition. A better explanation of this would have added to the research if the correlation could have been better understood. Another limitation to the method was the fact that multiple, smaller research tests seemed to have been taking place, for example providing different denomination cards to test the effect of the value of the incentive on participation (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017, 1424). This would appear to confuse the research aims and may have implications if the socioeconomic status of the participants impacted being present in the bar setting or not. This would raise questions about perceptions of the perpetrators about the victims. Did the perpetrators judge the victims to be wealthy, not-wealthy, and would this have impacted their approach to victims? Also, it appears that some men took part in the survey, but this is not clearly articulated.
What overall conclusions did the author(s) reach from the data they collected and analyzed? In your opinion, were the conclusions adequately supported by the data? Why or why not?
The authors reached the overall conclusions that pervasive sexual aggression needs to place more focus on men’s behaviour and attitudes towards women, especially in socially charged situations. This finding is in conflict with a lot of the research which seems to focus on women changing their behaviour first, so that men will then change their own, that is, there is an assumption that men’s behaviour is predicated on the way in which women behave. There is an inherent assumption that men will not commit sexual assault if women dress a certain way or behave a certain way. The data actually reflects a patriarchal perception of the world, with women having to defend their right to exist in any mixed gender setting. The authors’ conclusions also use data to suggest that bars, and other similar settings, need to assume some responsibility for the behaviour that is expected in their establishments and, as the authors suggest, provide training to their staff about dealing with sexual aggression (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017, 1436). The data does support the analysis of the authors.
The conclusions were reflective of the context of the experiences. The data shows that anger, humiliation and fear were the drivers of victims leaving the bar settings. These three emotions are subjective and because some respondents may or may not have been drinking, the level of their emotions may have blinded them to some situations that may have been more dangerous than they realized (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017,1434). This may have impacted the results. If the study could have been conducted over a few months, relating experiences from going to a number of bars, the strength of the findings could be better ascertained.
In your opinion, what was the most interesting thing about research methods that you learned from reading this article and why?
Probably the most surprising lesson was that participants were willing to go to a mobile research lab both before and after going to the bar. Whether this is a reflection of the interest or concern for the subject matter, or because of the incentives offered, would be an interesting research question in itself. This latter point is made because of the pervasive sense in the article, that the aggressive behaviour of the men seemed to be considered a normative behaviour that women had to adapt to or work around (Graham, Bernards, Abbey, Dumas, & Wells, 2017, 1432). This really was surprising, because the women seemed to excuse, justify, regard lack of evidence of sexual assault as negating sexually aggressive behaviour as wrong. This all suggests that the veneer of civilization is very thin. It seems as if it would take very little to break this veneer if individuals find themselves in certain situations. This is actually very frightening on many levels. First on a simply social level because of the risk of criminal assault that women face. Secondly, it begs the question then of how accurate are the results if some of these aggressive sexual behaviours are considered norms in some situations? What analytical tool could interpret this intrinsic belief and correct for it?
Graham, K., Bernards, S., Abbey, A., Dumas, T., & Wells, S. (2017). When Women Do Not Want It: Young Female Bargoers’ Experiences With and Responses to Sexual Harassment in Social Drinking Contexts. Violence Against Women, 23(12), 1419-1441.