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An Online Resource Library Supporting Professionals Ending Gender-Based Violence.

Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

NRCDV Publications
General Material
Published Date
January, 2003

As public recognition of domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA) has reached increasing heights, there has been an outcry for effective prevention programs. This outcry is based on an understanding of the widespread nature of this problem and the incredible costs to victims and society as a whole. This document summarizes the development of prevention initiatives in these two related areas. Because DV and SA prevention initiatives have not been fully evaluated, this review identifies trends and promising developments rather than definitive directions in the field.

Schools are an ideal place in which to introduce primary prevention programs to a wide range of children. Much of children's social learning takes place in schools, and influences the development of behaviours and attitudes supportive of interpersonal violence in its many forms. Prevention programs capitalize on these factors by introducing discussion of personal safety and injury prevention in the classroom, and by integrating such discussion within the context of trusting relationships. Early- and mid-adolescence offers a unique window of opportunity for prevention efforts to make teens more aware of how violence in relationships can occur and to teach healthy ways of forming intimate relationships. Late adolescence and the early adult years are also critical periods of transition. In fact, college students are seen as so high-risk for partner violence and sexual assault that some researchers argue institutions should provide universal programs to address the magnitude of these issues.

Public awareness campaigns such as public service announcements and advertisements are common approaches to primary prevention of DV and SA with adults. These campaigns typically provide information regarding the warnings signs of violence and community resources for victims and perpetrators.

We are currently at a crossroads regarding the role of school- and community-based programming in preventing domestic violence and sexual assault. There has never been greater awareness of the issue of violence, but at the same time society has never been more polarized in deciding how to respond: reactively or proactively. There is a clear need for these two fields to become more integrated in their approach to prevention.

As the field of DV and SA prevention develops, there will be a remaining challenge to ensure programs are implemented on a comprehensive basis and are founded on good outcome research that documents what programs are most effective for their target populations. Despite significant challenges, prevention efforts remain a very promising approach to reducing domestic violence and sexual assault.

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