Using a Comprehensive Approach to Preventing Sexual Violence

campus-rapeIn January, President Obama established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  The members of this task force (which include the Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Education) have many tasks, including “providing institutions with evidence-based best and promising practices for preventing and responding to rape and sexual assault. “

In the last month, many organizations have provided the Task Force feedback through listening sessions held in February and written input. From my perspective as a prevention practitioner, we need to ensure prevention, including primary prevention, is part of a comprehensive approach to addressing sexual violence on college campuses and in our communities. A comprehensive approach to prevent sexual violence incorporates diverse strategies that are culturally relevant, sustainable, responsive to community needs, and consider risk and protective factors on the individual, relationship, community and societal levels.  We want prevention efforts that are informed by the best available evidence as well as fit the specific needs of the community.

When reviewing several organizations input to the community, I was alarmed when I saw the recommendations to the Task Force from RAINN that defined primary prevention in this manner: “…the most effective — the primary — way to prevent sexual violence is to use the criminal justice system to take more rapists off the streets.”  While a criminal justice response is part of the solution, we cannot end rape by primarily enforcing criminal laws. I cannot think of any social problem that has been solved primarily by criminal enforcement.

In order to prevent sexual violence we need to identify community-wide solutions, not only actions that are addressing sexual assault on an individual case-by-case basis.  Thus, changing culture and norms that shape behaviors are key elements to prevention. I do not see the value of labeling efforts to end rape culture as an “unfortunate trend” as RAINN does in their recommendations. Finding ways to effectively transform rape culture is a necessary piece of the change we seek.

I recommend comprehensive community-based solutions. In February, I had the opportunity to speak about prevention at the UVA Dialogue on Sexual Misconduct Among College Students. I described how effort to prevent sexual violence should include all of these elements:

  • Services: Provide victim-centered supportive services to survivors of sexual violence and those impacted by violence by sexual violence, and dedicate sufficient resources to support individual and community healing.
  • Systems: Build effective responses, services and systems response to sexual violence incidents to provide consistent community and social sanctions for perpetrators of violence.
  • Awareness: Conduct efforts to engage the community in dialogue around sexual violence as a serious community issue, raising the profile of the problem of sexual violence, and making it relevant to individual and community lived experience. This includes efforts toward public safety that focus on helping individuals and communities managing the existing conditions that facilitate sexual violence.  Such safety efforts can include publicizing available resources, individual empowerment strategies, and community safety plans.
  • Primary Prevention: Implement strategies that seek to develop healthy, robust, and just communities crucial to interrupt the culture in which sexual violence thrives. These strategies promote the norms and behaviors that support a community without sexual violence.

We cannot lose sight of primary prevention efforts. I agree with RAINN that we should not mandate the use of specific curricula toward preventing sexual violence as each college and community needs to find the strategies that best meet their specific needs and build upon the assets of that community.  However, I do not agree with RAINN that “research has shown that prevention efforts that focus solely on men and “redefining masculinity,” …are unlikely to be effective.” Sexual Violence Research Initiative’s 2011 Report Engaging Boys and Men in the Prevention of Sexual Violence and other research indicate many strategies that have promise in reducing sexual violence perpetration.

I wish sexual violence could be prevented with a video, brochure, or pre-packaged program. However, we need to dedicate a range of activities, that includes activities that RAINN calls for, and comprehensive prevention efforts to create colleges and communities without rape.

Article written by David S. Lee, MPH, Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA).  Photo from Her Campus.

National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within LGBTQH communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs, affiliate organizations and individual affiliates who create systemic and social change. We strive to increase power, safety and resources through data analysis, policy advocacy, education and technical assistance.

The NCAVP brings together LGBTQH anti-violence programs across the United States and in Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario.




American College Health Association Campus Sexual Violence Resources

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Campus and Sexual Violence Resources by American College Health Association is an index page of American College Health Association (ACHA) resources and external resources on the topic of campus sexual assault.  Resources include association projects, programs, publications, guidelines, and more.

Click through the above links to read the resources.

Talking-Points Memo on Campus Sexual Assault from the AAUW

AAUW has been empowering women as individuals and as a community since 1881. For more than 130 years, we have worked together as a national grassroots organization to improve the lives of millions of women and their families.

To read the AAUW talking-points memo on campus sexual assault click here, or to read about funding for sexual assault prevention initiatives click here.



SCOPE Online Prevention Program Clearinghouse

SCOPE (the School and College Organization for Prevention Educators) has created a clearinghouse of online prevention programs for Alcohol and Other Drugs, Bystander Intervention and Sexual Violence. Inclusion in the clearinghouse does not constitute endorsement by SCOPE.”

This PDF is a list of programs developed to address a variety of issues on college campuses.

Campus Sexual Violence Prevention Portal

Brought to you by the Minnesota Department of Health, the Campus Sexual Violence Prevention Portal is a page where you will find resources for college students, faculty, staff, journalists and parents on preventing sexual violence. Aside from offering research and resources about sexual violence, the Campus Sexual Violence Prevention Portal provides a foundation for agencies located in Minnesota to partner with other agencies and organizations located in Minnesota.

Click here to view the resource page. 

Model Campus Stalking Policy

The Stalking Resource Center, a program 威而鋼
of the National Center for Victims of Crime, partnered with the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) to publish this model campus policy on stalking. Numerous colleges and universities across the country contact the Stalking Resource Center each year, requesting assistance on how to address stalking on campuses. Along with requests for technical assistance, schools have asked for examples of stalking policies they could adapt and implement on their campuses. This document is a direct response to those inquiries.  

Using Data to Grow Prevention Programs

This webinar presented by CALCASA explored using institutional, community, and experiential data to inform program development and to identify a population of focus for sexual violence prevention efforts. This web-conference will be useful in developing the population of focus section in the upcoming RPE and RFA.

Click here to watch the web conference. View the slides here.


For more resources on this topic, click here.

How to Effectively Include Students in Development and Revision of Sexual Assault Policy

This webinar presented by CALCASA in collaboration with SAFER Campus and OVW Campus Grantees to discuss the importance of students working together with their universities on sexual assault, dating violence and stalking policy. Recently in the media we have seen numerous news stories of college students vocalizing discontent with their universities about policy and response to sexual assault on campus.  By being proactive with student involvement in policy, universities can create a more collaborative relationship with students to ensure their needs are being met on campus.

Presenting on the webinar today was Zoe Ginsburg and Megan McKendry from SAFER Campus.  The webinar was entitled, “How to effectively include students in development and revision of Sexual Assault policy.”  They covered topics such as why students are key participants in policy reform and key findings in what students look for in a campus sexual assault policy.

To view the webinar slides click here and to listen to the recording click here.  To get ideas from other schools’ policies, visit the Campus Accountability Project or check out the Activist Resource Center, for free articles about how students organize.

How does your campus engage students in policy development and revision on campus?