Effective & Promising Programs A Systematic Review of Primary Prevention Strategies for Sexual Violence Prevention

The most current and thorough research review, A Systematic Review of Primary Prevention Strategies for Sexual Violence Prevention (DeGue, et al., 2014), was recently released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors examined 140 studies of primary prevention strategies that met certain criteria. Some of these include rigorous evaluation, being published between 1985 and 2012, and being focused on primary prevention of perpetration (studies examining risk reduction, preventing recidivism, or focused on victimization were not included).

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center produced a helpful and quick "research translation" of the DeGue et al. article.

Inventory of Effective & Promising Programs

  • Safe Dates
    • A 10-session curriculum focused on attitudes and behaviors associated with dating abuse and violence. The program also include a play to set the stage for the program, a poster contest to reinforce concepts learned in the curriculum, and parenting materials.
  • Shifting Boundaries
    • A two-part dating violence prevention program for middle schools. The building-level intervention involves environmental changes, a poster campaign, “hotspot” mapping, and school staff monitoring. There is also a classroom curriculum. 
  • Coaching Boys into Men
    • Program engages high school athletes in boys' sports by providing coaches with training tools to model and promote respectful, non-violent, healthy relationships with their athletes. 
  • Brining in the Bystander
    • A bystander education and training program designed for college students.

Effective Program Structure

One of the standout observations from this research endeavor is that sufficient dosage is a key element of effective primary prevention.

  • Specifically, one hour programs with college students represented more than half of the included studies and none of these were shown to have lasting effects.
  • The strategies with positive effects were on average two to three times longer than those with mixed or negative effects.

Future Research Priorities

  • We have a limited pool of studies and strategies that are truly effective. Much more research is needed.
    • Approximately a quarter of reviewed strategies either had no effect (null) or potentially negative effects.
    • Approximately 40% of reviewed strategies had mixed positive and null effects.
  • More investment in evaluating primary prevention strategies that follow best practice guidance is needed.
    • The bulk of the strategies reviewed were short-term programs that focused solely on changing knowledge or attitudes. None of these have shown evidence of changing sexually violent behaviors.

Additional Example Programs

The following programs were not included in the CDC's 2014 research publication but have since had promising evaluation findings published and included in the current STOP SV Technical Package as examples of programs aligning with recommended strategies:

  • Green Dot
    • Seeks to empower young people to intervene in their peer groups by speaking up against sexist language or behaviors that promote violence, reinforcing positive social norms, and offering help or support in situations where violence may occur or has occurred. Originally developed and tested for college campuses, but promising evaluation findings have also been shown with the High School version. Additional K-3, Middle School, and Community programs have been developed. 
  • Second Step
    • Student Success through Prevention. A social-emotional skills based program for middle school students aimed at reducing bullying and SV perpetration.
  • Strong African American Families
    • A 7-session on program developed for rural African American parents and their preadolescent children. It seeks to prevent adolescent problem behaviors, including early sexual involvement and risky sexual behavior, by focusing on protective parenting practices. 
  • Safer Choice
    • Educational program focused on HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy prevention and designed to reduce sexual risk behaviors and increase protective behaviors among high school students. Includes student, school staff, and parental components.