Working to Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence Before It Begins

Sexual and domestic violence are preventable social and health problems that have lasting effects for people, families, communities, and society as a whole. Primary prevention strategies work to decrease the incidence of first-time perpetration of violence and victimization. These strategies are achieved by changing social norms, policies, and conditions at the individual, relationship, community, and societal levels, or at all levels of the social ecology.

How Prevention Works

Prevention strategies work in conjunction with intervention strategies. Crisis intervention and safe services are essential for helping victims of sexual and domestic violence, whereas prevention works to change social norms to prevent perpetration from ever occurring. Prevention strategies include teaching skills for developing healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships. This includes the promotion of mutual respect, anti-bullying, and bystander intervention messages and skills. Prevention efforts include reducing known risk factors for perpetration of sexual and domestic violence and promoting protective factors.

Risk and Protective Factors

Certain risk factors are associated with a greater likelihood of sexual or domestic violence perpetration. A combination of individual, relational, community, and societal factors can contribute to the risk of becoming a perpetrator or victim of sexual or domestic violence. They are contributing factors and may or may not be direct causes. Understanding risk and protective factors can help identify various opportunities for prevention.

Not everyone who is identified as “at risk” becomes involved in violence. Although risk factors may be prevalent, when taken alone, they do not predict perpetration. They should be seen as contributing to the likelihood of perpetration, but not causative. Protective factors are factors that minimize the likelihood of being victimized by sexual or domestic violence (CDC 2012).

Risk Factors for Sexual and Domestic Violence

Individual Risk Factors

  • Being a victim of physical or psychological abuse
  • Prior history of being physically abusive
  • Belief in strict gender roles (i.e., male dominance, aggression in relationships)
  • Desire for power and control in relationships
  • Perpetrating psychological aggression

Relationship Factors

  • Dominance and control of the relationship by one partner over the other
  • Unhealthy family relationships and interactions

Community Factors

  • Weak community sanctions against sexual and domestic violence (i.e., unwillingness of others to intervene in situations where they witness violence)
  • Poverty and associated factors
  • Lack of institutions, relationships, and norms that shape healthy community social interactions

Societal Factors

  • Traditional gender roles (i.e., women should stay at home, not enter workforce, be submissive; men as superior to women, support the family, make decisions)
  • High tolerance for levels of crime and other forms of violence

(CDC 2009)

Preventing Sexual and Domestic Violence in Kansas

In 2007, KCSDV formed a joint committee of stakeholders from a wide variety of agencies and disciplines to develop a 10-year strategic plan for the primary prevention of sexual and domestic violence in Kansas. The vision of the Kansas Sexual and Domestic Violence Primary Prevention Committee is that all people in Kansas will have safe and healthy relationships in their homes, schools, workplaces and communities, free of sexual and domestic violence. The committee has developed a data-driven, evidence-based plan focusing on several key areas:

  • Reducing risk factors for male perpetration of sexual and domestic violence, including promoting norms that support healthy masculinity;
  • Increasing gender equity for women and girls;
  • Increasing efforts for primary prevention of sexual and domestic violence across the state, including building community investment and practitioner skills for effective prevention programs; and
  • Improving data systems by enhancing the collection of and access to risk and protective factor data for planning and improvement.

prevention wheel

Primary Prevention Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Prevent Connect

The Prevention Institute

Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence

Publication: Kansas – Reweaving our Social Fabric: A Comprehensive Plan To Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence in Kansas

Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Program