Crisis Connection’s Primary Prevention Approach
Over the past three decades, our agency has and continues to create programs and policies that effectively respond to domestic or sexual violence after it has happened. Our practices include support to victims and their families/friends, safety planning, legal and system advocacy, and more. Our Advocates work closely with police, judges, prosecutors, health care providers and others to ensure that victims receive the care and the services they need. They also work to assist others affected the victim’s sphere of influence (i.e. children, co-workers, etc.) Our coordinated community response has strengthened policies in schools, work places, courts, and agencies that work with people who have been victimized each day.
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 totally stemmed the tide of interpersonal violence before it occurs. So, we have joined other groundbreakers across the nation and have actively adopted a public health approach which is relatively new to our field. This means changing the norms in our communities that allow violence to thrive by adopting a body of work called “primary prevention.”
Three Levels of Prevention
There are three levels of prevention:
- Primary: Takes place before interpersonal 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.
Primary prevention activities that works upstream with intervention strategies that are already in place.
Secondary prevention activities includes all of our services for survivors/clients
Tertiary prevention activities includes our batterers intervention program that work to address the long-term consequences.
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.
Primary Prevention goes beyond raising awareness and works to promote the behaviors we want to see adopted. We intend to stop potential perpetrators before they commit their first act. This is a paradigm shift for many whose mindset has been on responding to the needs of people who have been victimized. Growing up with or living with violence (sometimes called “exposure”) causes personal and community health problems, according to a strong and growing body of research. This same research shows that violence is also preventable.
Primary prevention focuses on change…
- Knowledge:For change in knowledge – we provide information
- Attitudes:For change in attitudes – we provide information that appeals to personal impact. Takes time and occurs through multiple opportunities.
- Beliefs and Behaviors:For change in beliefs and behaviors – we help people show and practice new skills and communicate with others during the learning process.
- Awareness + Action = Change We envision a community free of behavior that causes physical, psychological, or sexual harm to others.
Remember: Awareness alone will not change conditions and cultures that allow domestic violence to exist.
A cornerstone of our approach is using the framework of a socioecological model (SEM). A system can be defined as a comparatively bounded structure consisting of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements that form a whole. Thus, systems thinking, which is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole, is central to ecological mode. Thus, various level to consider are:
- Individual: health education strategies use behavior change theory to influence awareness, knowledge, attitudes.
- Interpersonal: family, friends, peers that provide social identity and support.
- Organizations: organizational change, diffusion of innovation, and social marketing strategies.
- Community:social marketing, community organizing.
- Public Policy: public opinion process, policy change process.
Adopting community level strategies that can stop violence before it occurs is important this social change work. Using the 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 our community condone and/or promote domestic violence? What strategies might change those conditions? What decreases a person’s risk of perpetrating domestic violence?” It also recognizes that oppressions are related within a social structure – 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.
Our primary prevention efforts include but are not limited to:
- Building capacity with community collaborators
- Fostering coalitions and networks
- Developing and sourcing best practices that modify and/or eliminate the events, situation, conditions, or exposure to influences (risk factors) that result in the initiation and perpetration of sexual and domestic violence.
- Conducting of sustained, skill-building educational opportunities (e.g. curriculum we share in schools on topics as anti-bullying, media literacy, healthy relationships, technology safety, etc.)
- Implementing an extensive communications plan, (e.g., website, monthly newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.)
- Recruitment of adult males to become leaders in societal norm changing efforts, (e.g., Futures Without Violence ‘Coaching Boys to Men’, Lundy Bancroft, Jackson Katz, etc.)
- Conducting/sharing learning opportunities that are timely, efficient, and effective, (e.g., webinars, seminars, presentations, etc.)
- Mapping community assets to social determinants of health
- Collaborating with key stakeholders in understanding the impact of ACE’s (adverse childhood experiences)
- Influencing legislation at all levels across spectrum (i.e. Title IX)
- Providing a plethora of resources to parents, caregivers, teachers, colleges, etc.
- Saturating the community with healthy relationships messaging and promoting responsible bystander behaviors
- Encouraging policies and leaders that set an expectation for healthy relationships
The core competencies of our prevention efforts include:
- Being and active part of coalitions and partnerships
- Assessing community needs and resources
- Focusing on our strategic plan with definitive action
- Building leadership and cultural competency
- Advocating as a social change agent built around a social marketing plan
- Improving organizational management and development
- Evaluating progress on initiative
- Sustaining our work
To find out more about primary prevention, we encourage you to visit the website of Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV). www.icadvinc.org/prevention/
We are honored to serve on their Delta Focus Leadership Team and are the proud recipients of their statewide 2012 ‘Outstanding Preventionist’ award.
Many of our community partners have availed themselves to some excellent learning materials regarding this groundbreaking. We’d love for you to do so yourself at:
We welcome you to contact our Community Education Staff to learn more on how you can get involved.