The Solution to Ending Violence: Primary Prevention
Over the past three decades our agency has successfully created programs and community partnerships that effectively respond to domestic and sexual violence after it has happened. We have a number of best practice services including: offering shelter and support to victims and their families, safety planning, support groups, legal advocacy, crisis response, and more. Our advocates work closely with police, judges, attorneys and health care providers to ensure that victims and their children receive the care and the services they need.
Yet, with all of these programs and services in place to respond to the needs of victims once violence has already happened, we have not eliminated perpetration of domestic or sexual violence from occurring in our communities. As we have begun to recognize domestic and sexual violence as a public health issue, it has encouraged agencies such as ours to apply the public health approach in an effort to stop the problem before it begins.
The public health approach has produced safer, healthier communities from a variety of legislation and public awareness campaigns; seatbelts, car seats, helmets, and smoking cessation are all good examples. The public health model works because it uses methods and measures from a variety of fields with multiple positive messages delivered over time by role models and leaders.
Our efforts can be more effective by using the same principles and practices to address domestic and sexual violence. Our staff, board, and state coalitions believe it is time to dedicate energy, personnel, and funding to preventing domestic and sexual violence.
There are three levels of prevention:
- Primary: Takes place before domestic violence has occurred to prevent first time victimization or perpetration
- Secondary: Intervention and response to deal with short-term solutions for survivors and consequences for abusers. Meant to prevent violence from happening again.
- Tertiary: Ongoing support to victims and ongoing accountability to abusers.
Our prevention efforts:
Primary prevention activities at Albion include evidence based programming, bystander intervention programming, and addressing social and gender norms in marketing campaigns, etc.
Secondary prevention activities include shelter, counseling, legal and medical advocacy, safety planning, arrest and Protective Orders.
Tertiary prevention activities include support groups for survivors that work to address the long-term consequences of domestic and/or sexual violence.
People often confuse public awareness campaigns and risk reduction with prevention. Examples of risk reduction efforts used in schools and community initiatives include recognizing warning signs, self-defense courses, and tips for personal safety, (e.g., “don’t walk alone at night”). Risk reduction strategies are important but will not prevent people from being victimized.
Adopting community level strategies that can stop violence before it occurs is important social change work. A social change framework works with the public health model by seeking to uncover root or underlying causes of behaviors at all levels of the social ecology. It asks “What conditions in the community condone and/or promote domestic and sexual violence? What strategies might change those conditions? What decreases a person’s risk of perpetrating domestic violence?” It also recognizes that certain limiting cultural beliefs can create an environment that excuses violence – racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, adultism, ableism. Challenging where power and resources exist is key to creating a healthy community that values all members and views violence, including institutional violence, as intolerable.
What Does Primary Prevention Change?
Knowledge: For change in knowledge – provide clear information.
Attitudes: For change in attitudes – provide information and appeal to emotions or personal impact. Some practice is necessary, takes time and occurs over multiple sessions.
Beliefs and Behaviors: For change in beliefs and behaviors – people need to show and practice new skills and communicate with others during the learning process. This occurs over multiple interactions.
Awareness + Action = Change: This resource explains examples of the difference between and how awareness and prevention work together for social change. Awareness alone will not change conditions and cultures that allow domestic and sexual violence to exist.