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Designing a Comprehensive Primary Prevention Strategy

In the anti-sexual violence field, you may hear references to specific strategies that are being used to prevent sexual violence... but what does that really look like in practice?

A comprehensive primary prevention strategy is comprised of multiple activities and messages that are logically connected and build upon one another. These types of strategies are designed to reach people and communities over a long period of time.

Effective strategies should target risk and protective factors for perpetration. According to the CDC, risk factors are associated with a greater likelihood of sexual violence (SV) perpetration. They are contributing factors and may or may not be direct causes. Not everyone who is identified as "at risk" becomes a perpetrator of violence. A combination of individual, relational, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of becoming a perpetrator of sexual violence. Understanding these multilevel factors can help identify various opportunities for prevention.

Comprehensive primary prevention strategies are...

  • On-going efforts to reach a small population over a long period of time
  • Focused on preventing initial perpetration
  • Theory driven & consistent with the "9 Principles"
  • Informed by community needs and resources
  • Delivered on multiple levels of the social ecological model (individual, relationship, community, societal)
  • Identifying and promoting healthy and safe alternatives to violence
  • Building necessary skills for individuals and communities
  • Inclusive of an anti-oppression framework
  • Designed with evaluation outcomes

So, what is NOT a comprehensive primary prevention strategy?

To help answer this question, let's consider a few qualities that help distinguish comprehensive primary prevention strategies.

  • Saturation. Focus is on large change with a small group. Was the audience given a high dosage of the message(s) and many opportunities to practice and integrate these skills into their routine?
  • Scope. These strategies work towards large shifts. Is the message delivered to people and communities in a variety of ways over a long period of time? Is it reinforced in many places and formats?
  • Goal. Primary prevention aims to prevent first time perpetration. Does the strategy address underlying causes and risk factors for perpetration?

Given the above criteria, the following are not considered comprehensive primary prevention strategies...

  • Delivering a curriculum is not a prevention strategy by itself, but rather may be one component of a comprehensive approach
  • One-time events or trainings
  • Presentations focusing on defining sexual violence
  • Teaching statistics, dynamics, and impacts of victimization
  • Safety skills for potential victims to reduce risk
  • Accessing services and teaching how to help others access services
  • Delivering sessions that only impact individuals, not other levels of the SEM
  • Teaching to intervene only when sexual violence is in progress or likely to occur

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Additional Resources

Reviewed: April 12th, 2016