Prevention 101

There are three main types of sexual assault prevention- primary, secondary, and tertiary. CALCASA (retrieved online, 2013) describes these approaches in the following ways:

  •  Primary Prevention: Activities that take place before sexual violence has occurred to prevent initial perpetration or victimization. Primary Prevention efforts are guided by theory, strategy, and evaluation.
  • Secondary Prevention: Immediate responses after the sexual violence has occurred to deal with the short-term consequences. Most of the activities of the 17 Rape Crisis Centers in Maryland are at this level of prevention through their  hotline work, court and hospital accompaniment, and crisis counseling.
  • Tertiary Prevention: Long-term responses after sexual violence have occurred to deal with the lasting consequences of violence and sex offender treatment interventions.

MCASA’s “Speak Up. Speak Out.” college bystander intervention campaign and MCASA’s “Power of One” campaign for the general public both take a primary prevention approach, aiming to empower people to try to stop sexual violence before it begins.

There are also many models that focus on different approaches to preventing sexual assault.

  • The “Social-Ecological Model” of Behavior Change is used to describe and categorize different prevention strategies based on individual, relationship, community and societal influences. The following chart and information from the Washington State Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (retrieved online, 2013) demonstrates these levels:



    1. Individual: Causes of sexual violence at an individual level may include past experiences, personal attitudes, use of alcohol/drugs, etc.  Prevention at this level could include promoting respect and attitudes against sexual violence through educational programs.
    2. Relationship: Causes of sexual violence at a relationship level may include unsupportive or negative personal relationships with partners, friends, family members, coworkers, classmates, etc. Prevention at this level would encourage healthy relationships that maintain support and communication. An example of relationship level prevention is bystander intervention.
    3. Community: Causes of sexual violence at a community level may include a community-wide acceptance of sexual violence and lack of support from local police. Prevention at this level would promote better attitudes and policies in a community. An example is a college organization that aims to change the university’s policies regarding sexual assault.
    4. Societal: Causes of sexual violence at a societal level can include social norms and societal acceptance of sexist attitudes and gender inequality. Prevention at this level would promote norms, laws, and policies that foster healthy relationships and respect towards women. This could include contacting policy makers and asking them to contribute funds for sexual violence prevention programs or advocating against the sexualization and objectification of women in the media.
  • Comprehensive Prevention involves activities across the “Prevention Spectrum”:strengthening individual knowledge and skills, promoting community education, educating providers, fostering coalitions and networks, challenging organizational practices, and influencing policy and legislation. The NSVRC defines each levels as follows (retrieved online, 2013):

1. Strengthening Individual Knowledge and Skills: Enhancing an individual’s capability of preventing violence and promoting safety. Sample activities may include:

      • Providing multiple session skill-building programs that teach healthy sexuality and healthy and equitable relationships skills to high school students.
      • Building the skills of bystanders to safely interrupt behavior such as sexist and homophobic harassment.
      • Teaching parents to address attitudes and behaviors in their children that support sexual violence.

MCASA’s Power of One campaign is an example of strengthening individual knowledge and skills. It describes how bystanders can intervene to prevent sexual assault.

2. Promoting Community Education: Reaching groups of people with information and resources to prevent violence and promote safety. Sample activities may include:

      • Staging community plays that reinforce positive cultural norms, portray responsible sexual behavior, and models of bystander action.
      • Holding religious and political leaders accountable for providing clear and consistent messages that sexual violence is not appropriate; model healthy, equitable relationships and healthy sexuality.
      • Fostering media coverage of sexual violence with a focus on underlying factors and solutions.
      • Developing awards programs to publicly recognize responsible media coverage and community leadership to prevent sexual violence.

3. Educating Providers: Informing providers who will transmit skills and knowledge to others and model positive norms. Sample activities may include:

      • Training little league coaches to build skills to interrupt and address athletes’ inappropriate comments and behaviors that promote a climate condoning sexual harassment and sexual violence.
      • Training prison guards on rape prevention.
      • Training nursing home providers on sexual violence prevention practices.
      • Educating musicians, song writers, DJs, and producers about the impact of music lyrics and videos.

MCASA educates providers through our FNE and advocate trainings throughout the year.

4. Fostering Coalitions and Networks: Bringing together groups and individuals for broader goals and greater impact. Sample activities may include:

      • Fostering partnerships between researcher/academics and community providers to strengthen evaluation approaches.
      • Engaging art organizations to promote community understanding and solutions.
      • Engaging grassroots, community-based organizations and sectors of government, including social services, health, public health, law enforcement and education.
      • Engaging the business sector to foster workplace solutions and build support among their peers.

MCASA is an example of a coalition that brings together groups with a common goal. We support and assist the 17 Rape Crisis and Recovery Centers in Maryland and work with many organizations across the state to help survivors and bring an end to sexual violence.

5. Changing Organizational Practices: Adopting regulations and shaping norms to prevent violence and improve safety violence and promote safety. Sample activities may include:

      • Implementing and enforcing sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention practices in schools, workplaces, places of worship and other institutions.
      • Implementing environmental safety measures such as adequate lighting and emergency call boxes, complemented by community education and enforcement of policies.
      • Encouraging insurers to provide healthy sexuality promoting resources and materials.

6. Influencing Policies and Legislation: Enacting laws and policies that support healthy community norms and a violence-free society. Sample activities may include:

      • Promoting and enforcing full implementation of the Title IX law.
      • Establishing policies at universities to provide sexual violence prevention curriculum to all students and training to all staff, and include funding as a line item in the university’s budget.
      • Passing middle and high school policies to offer comprehensive sex education programs that include sexual violence prevention and address contributing factors in the school environment.

MCASA influences policies and legislation by supporting  legislation that promotes justice for survivors of sexual violence, accountability for offenders, and protection for the general public.

Video Copyright ©2015 Emmeline May and Blue Seat Studios