No Zebras, No Excuses: Addressing Sexual Aggression and Bystander Behavior

No Zebras, No Excuses is a performance-based intervention conducted by trained peer educators. The program consists of seven vignettes designed to replicate situations of sexual assault, drug facilitated sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, and harassment.

Stephen M. Thompson
Program Name Level of Evidence Format Target Audience Special Features
No Zebras, No Excuses: Addressing Sexual Aggression and Bystander Behavior
Promising Direction
  • In-person Workshop
  • Presentation
  • Online Course
  • Undergraduate students
Learning Objectives

After seeing this presentation, participants will be able to:

  • explain how negative myths concerning sexual assault, stalking, sexual harassment and intimate partner violence are formed and their effect on societal attitudes
  • define the four areas of sexual aggression
  • describe the differences between consent and coercion
  • list the most common characteristics of the “nice guy” familiar assailant and his sequence of behavior to assault
  • describe the bystander process, and discuss strategies and actions that could be used to engage bystanders in sexual aggression prevention

The No Zebras program uses short vignettes that give examples of sexual assault, stalking, partner violence and harassment in real life environments. Between each vignette peer educators speak with the audience about myths, laws, and policies, while discussing the actions that could be used to intervene as a bystander.

The program has been adapted so that it can be presented in a virtual format.  Pronouns and language are evaluated and updated continuously as are examples and stories reinforcing the messages.


One performance. Program length can be adjusted to run anywhere between 50 and 90 minutes.


Each educator is trained sexual aggression education and advocacy.

Population Served

Undergraduates, military personnel

Theoretical Basis For Approach

The No Zebras program is based upon Stephen M. Thompson's research published in 1995 which identified the seven step process of familiar assault and identified familiar rapists as the "nice guy". The performance also builds off research demonstrating the effectiveness of bystander intervention programming.

Program Effectiveness

Several unpublished studies have demonstrated significant decreases in rape myth acceptance using a pre/post test (non-experimental) evaluation design, including one study that conducted longitudinal follow-ups one month after the intervention. 


Since 2005 No Zebras, No Excuses has been presented at many colleges and universities.  In 2012 the program was sponsored by the Department of the Navy and was presented at multiple navy stations and Marine bases throughout the United States and world. Recent presentations at colleges include:

  • Old Dominion University
  • Youngstown State University
  • Shawnee State University
  • Wayne State University
  • University of Massachusetts
  • Stonehill College
  • Mercyhurst University
  • Central Michigan University
  • Olivette College
  • Lake Superior State University
  • Miramar College
  • Post University
  • Wayne State University

As with all theatrical performances, it is important to keep in mind that a one-time intervention both has a limited effect on individual students, and can reach a limited number of students. This intervention may be excellent to supplement with other on-going programming on campus, including pairing the performance with discussion groups.


Basic program cost is $3,000 per work day, plus expenses.  Information and booking information can be found at


Thompson, S.M. (1995). Date/Acquaintance Rape: The Crime and Criminal. Campus Law Enforcement Journal, 25(3) 21-22, 36. NCJ 155524.