PCADV believes domestic violence is preventable. The evidence is mounting that efforts to respond to domestic violence alone will not stop perpetration. Domestic violence programs across the country are adopting a public health approach to preventing first-time perpetration of interpersonal violence.
Over the past three decades domestic violence advocates have successfully created programs and policies that effectively respond to domestic violence after it has happened. Numerous best practices exist that include: offering shelter and support to victims and their families, safety planning, support groups, legal and system advocacy, and more. Advocates work closely with police, judges, attorneys and health care providers to ensure that victims and their children receive the care and the services they need. Coordinated community responses across the country include strengthened policies in schools, work places, courts and other organizations 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 stemmed the tide of domestic violence occurring in our communities. Advocates across the nation recognize it is time to dedicate as much time, staff and funds to stopping violence before it starts. This means changing the norms in our communities that allow this violence to thrive by adopting an important set of strategies called “primary prevention.”
Three Levels of Prevention
There are three levels of prevention:
- Primary: Takes place before domestic 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 can work with intervention strategies that are already in place in community-based domestic violence programs.
Secondary prevention activities can include shelter, counseling and legal and medical advocacy, safety planning, arrest and Protection From Abuse Orders.
Tertiary prevention activities can include support groups for survivors or batterer intervention services that work to address the long-term consequences of domestic violence.
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.
What is Primary Prevention?
Primary Prevention goes beyond raising awareness of domestic violence and works to promote the behaviors we want to see adopted. Strategies are often focused on stopping potential perpetrators before they commit their first act. This is a relatively new concept for many working to end domestic violence whose primary focus 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 strategies include:
- working with children, their parents or caregivers to set expectations for healthy communication
- working with schools, workplaces and other community settings (faith-based organizations, neighborhoods, athletic associations, etc.) to change social norms
- saturating the community with healthy relationships messaging and promoting responsible bystander behaviors
- encouraging policies and leaders that set an expectation for healthy relationships and communities
What Does Primary Prevention Change?
Knowledge: For change in knowledge – provide clear information. Awareness can be raised in a one-time brief (up to one hour) session.
Attitudes: For change in attitudes – provide information and appeal to emotions or personal impact. Some practice is necessary, takes time and occurs over multiple sessions.
Beliefs and Behaviors: For change in beliefs and behaviors – people need to show and practice new skills and communicate with others during the learning process. This occurs over multiple sessions.
Awareness + Action = Change
Awareness alone will not change conditions and cultures that allow domestic violence to exist.
Lasting Success Through A Public Health Approach
The public health approach has produced safer, healthier communities from a variety of legislation and public awareness campaigns: seatbelts, car seats, helmets and smoking cessation are all good examples. The public health model works because it uses methods and measures from a variety of fields with multiple positive messages delivered over time by role models and leaders.
The movement to end domestic violence can be more effective by using the same principles and practices to address domestic violence. More information on the public health model
Adopting community level strategies that can stop violence before it occurs is important social change work. A 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 the 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.
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A cornerstone of the public health model is the Social Ecological Model
All four levels are connected and support each other to prevent domestic violence.
- Strategies directed at individuals to change their social/cognitive skills/behaviors
- Activities meant to change the people in close relationships
- Activities meant to change environments in communities such as common social settings, groups or organizations. Schools may do so through changing the climate or conditions that allow dating violence to exist by addressing policy, training and skills of people in these settings.
- Changing societal or cultural norms through media or legislative advocacy designed to create broader, systemic social change, e.g., equal pay for equal work policies, national or statewide social marketing campaigns
Pennsylvanians’ Views on Domestic Violence: A Snapshot
In 2011, PCADV partnered with the Center for Survey Research at Penn State Harrisburg to conduct a statewide landline and cell phone survey about Pennsylvanians’ knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about domestic violence. This survey will shape PCADV’s statewide Public Awareness Campaign and guide PCADV’s Statewide Plan for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.
- Read the Summary Report363.84 K | 7/23/2013