I host twenty-something primary prevention trainings a year and my essential training materials list goes like this: laptop, projector, flip chart paper, pens, and gender pronoun stickers. The latter is a recent addition to my training cart, but probably the most important. Like all disciplines, primary prevention of sexual violence is growing, expanding, and learning from past mistakes. As preventionists, we all must do better to include people who are gender non-conforming (GNC), trans, and non-binary in our work. The use of gender pronoun stickers is one small way that we recognize that the gender binary, and thus typical gender pronouns, does not represent all folks. Through our awareness, prevention, and intervention work we address gender inequality but must be careful not to exclude trans and GNC folks.
We know that trans and GNC individuals face discrimination and staggering rates of violence. From the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey:
“In the year prior to completing the survey, 46% of respondents were verbally harassed and 9% were physically attacked because of being transgender. During that same time period, 10% of respondents were sexually assaulted, and nearly half (47%) were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.”
In their 2016 National Sexual Assault Conference workshop, “Applying the Universe Model of Gender in Prevention,” Liat Wexler discussed the importance of expanding our current models of gender to recognize the diversity of gender expressions and identities in our primary prevention work and the problems with exclusion. Liat’s workshop discusses strategies for using cultural humility in prevention programming and harmful beliefs about trans and GNC folks that contribute to violence. A recording of Liat’s workshop presentation can be found here.
The Gender Universe Model is one tool that we can use to educate others and ourselves. To be effective preventionists, we must design our programming to be relevant for folks who are GNC, trans, and otherwise left out of the conversation, as these are the people who are most vulnerable to experiencing violence. We must also respect and support the leadership of individuals in these communities, as they are the experts. For more on this, here is a webinar on building alliances with LGBTQ movements.
For a webinar discussing sexual violence prevention beyond the binary, click here.
For resources for transgender survivors, click here.
Sexual violence impacts people of all identities and walks of life, yet victimization data demonstrate that the prevalence of sexual violence experience is not even across ethnicities. Per the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), one in three multiracial women reported an experience of sexual assault, versus one-quarter of American Indian or Alaska Natives, one in five black women, and one in seven Hispanic women. These differences in prevalence have implications for prevention funding and culturally relevant programming.
Core issues, such as safe housing and economic opportunity must be addressed to end sexual violence. Race Counts is a database that uses an array of indicators to demonstrate the disparity in the following key areas: crime and justice, democracy, economic opportunity, education, health care access, healthy built environment, and housing. From the CDC’s STOP SV report, we know that many of these indicators are modifiable risk factors that we can tackle in our mission to end sexual violence.
“Consent is sexy.” Campaigns like this can be found in many youth-centered spaces. This pithy slogan aims to reframe the affirmative consent standard amid the backlash against the “Yes Means Yes” legislation, a law criticized for being intrusive and putting a contractual burden on intimate activities. A shift from the previous “no means no” standard, the affirmative consent law legally established that consent cannot be assumed and that individuals must opt-in to sexual activity.
Consent must be explicit and integral, not just sexy. Asking for consent must never involve coercion, yet “wearing down” is still a common experience that young people report about their sexual encounters. Rather than educating young people on communication, empathy, and coercion-free healthy sexuality, some educational programs focus only on the legalities of consent. To be clear: we must all have an understanding of the legal requirement, but we must also educate youth on much more than legal compliance. The legal perspective in isolation is not primary prevention of sexual violence, as tremendous harm can occur in situations in which verbal consent was coerced and/or individuals felt “worn down.”
Consent must be more than sexy. Verbal affirmation is insufficient, even if it is adequate to avoid legal issues.
This New York Times article discusses the experiences of young people and the need to expand the conversation about consent.
The research is clear, sexual violence is preventable. Educational programs that teach young people skills to develop healthy relationships and create protective environments are key to preventing harm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been a leader in the effort to reduce rates of violence by impacting multiple levels of the Social-Ecological Model.
Housed within the Guide to Community Preventative Services, the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) is made up of public health and prevention practitioners who provide evidence-based recommendations to support the improvement of population health. Based on a systematic review of 28 studies, the CPSTF recommends the use of primary prevention strategies in the reduction of youth intimate partner violence, aligning with the CDC’s STOP SV Technical Package. This additional support for the use of primary prevention strategies, such as addressing risk factors and promoting protective factors, substantiates that our prevention work with youth moves us closer to a world free from sexual violence.
Follow this link to read the full report from the Community Preventative Services Task Force.
Follow this link to the summary of findings from the Community Preventative Services Task Force.
The prevalence of sexual violence victimization among minors is astounding; the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) reported 43.2% of female victims and 70.8% of male victims of completed or attempted rape experienced their first assault as minors. As preventionists, advocates, and educators, we must continuously challenge ourselves to improve our understanding of trauma and its long-lasting impacts. This toolkit from the Adolescent Health Working Group (AHWG) was created to support organizations as they build capacity and work to become trauma-informed. Beyond symptoms of trauma, this document explores the impact of trauma on development, provides recommendations to enhance the developmental assets for adolescents, and illustrates various levels of trauma on the Socio-Ecological Model.
View the toolkit here: https://rodriguezgsarah.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/traumaresbooklet-web.pdf
As individual activists and organizations striving to change culture, it is critical that we challenge ourselves to expand our work to outer layers of the Social-Ecological Model (SEM). Engaging in policy change efforts, the outermost layer of the SEM, can feel like a daunting undertaking. Fortunately, a number of resources are being developed to provide guidance and support in policy efforts. Below are twelve resources to assist with school policy change efforts, including model policies, resource websites, and policy briefs.
Website: Stop Sexual Assault in Schools
Video: Ignite Talks- Creating Change Beyond the Classroom
Web Conference: Keeping the Climate Study Data and Other Reports Off-the-Shelf
Report: Student Safety, Justice, and Support Policy Guidelines for Campuses Addressing Sexual Assault, Domestic Dating Violence, and Stalking
Model Policy: School and District Policies to Increase Student Safety and Improve School Climate
Model Policy: Idaho Model Secondary School Policy Adolescent Relationship Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response
Governance Brief: Promoting Healthy Relationships for Adolescents: Board Policy Considerations
Talking Points: “Considerations for School District Sexual Misconduct”
Policy Draft: “Los Angeles Unified School District Teen Dating Violence Policy Draft”
Report: Ending Harassment Now, Keeping our Kids Safe at School
Framework: Developing School Policies to Address Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking
Policy Brief: Addressing Bullying and Adolescent Dating Abuse