Prevention is one integral part of the anti-sexual violence movement. The understanding that sexual violence is preventable is rooted in the framework that this violence occurs within a continuum of events that support a rape culture. Feminist theory and public health models have given us tools to understand social contexts and create comprehensive strategies to end sexual violence. The goal is to reduce the impact of sexual violence upon individuals, our communities, and in society.
You can read more about some of the theories of social and personal change in the resource "Guidelines for the Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence & Intimate Partner Violence" (see pages 31-35) from the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance.
In Washington State, our prevention efforts are largely focused on primary prevention strategies. Our state goal is to change norms, values, beliefs and attitudes that contribute to sexual violence and shift ownership of the solutions to the community.
Public health classifies prevention efforts into three levels:
- Primary prevention
- approaches aim to stop sexual violence before it occurs; preventing initial victimization and perpetration.
- Secondary prevention
- approaches are immediate responses to sexual violence to deal with short-term consequences.
- Tertiary prevention
- approaches are long-term responses to sexual violence to deal with last consequences.
While it is important to work across the levels of prevention, historically prevention has occurred at the secondary and tertiary levels therefore currently there is much emphasis on primary prevention. Primary prevention efforts address the root causes of sexual violence. In line with public health, this approach shifts the responsibility of prevention to society and off of victims.
For more information and examples about primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention, see the section "What Is Primary Prevention" on pages 1-5 of the Primary Prevention and Evaluation Resource Kit developed by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) outlines five of the common norms that shape our attitudes, values, and behavior and contribute to the environment of sexual violence:
- Limited roles for and objectification and oppression of women.
- Value placed on claiming and maintaining power (manifested as power over).
- Tolerance of aggression and attribution of blame to victims.
- Traditional constructs of manhood, including domination, control and risk-taking.
- Notions of individual and family privacy that foster secrecy and silence.
- Sexual Violence Prevention: Beginning the Dialogue (2004). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Sexual Violence and the Spectrum of Prevention; Towards a Community Solution (2006). National Sexual Violence Resource Center.