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DTR: What Does Sexual Violence Prevention Look Like?

In some relationships there is always the point where you have to sit down and have the “the talk.”

We all have different feelings about “the talk,” but it’s when you sit down and DTR: define the relationship, or who you want to be. Are we just friends? Are we more than friends? Where is this relationship going? What do we expect from one another?

This post is not a “how to” on romantic relationships; it is a post about the different types of relationships I am invested in as a member of our Community Engagement and Development team at BARCC.  I see some similarities to dating: we set up a time to meet; we want to discuss common interests (in this case, sexual violence prevention work);we get to know each other; and then the real clincher: what type of professional partnership do we both have in mind?  Can we call this a partnership? How much time do we want to invest? Do we do workshops about sexual violence or something else? Do we want to discuss what we both have in mind for capacity?  Doing prevention work is awesome, fun, rewarding and sometimes hard. That’s why all the questions are necessary, right? I mean, if we think that we’re both talking about prevention, but then at the end realize we’re somewhere else… that could be a problem. Which begs the question, what is prevention? Is it stickers and brochures that say, “Don’t rape?” In my mind it’s a lot more than that.

Sexual violence prevention, as I have come to understand it, has its roots in the early 1970’s. An article in the Prevention Researcher reports that this was a time “where education was an important component.” It goes on to list the reasons: education raises awareness about sexual violence, and it supports survivors. From my experience with BARCC, I like to also note that the educational piece engages attitudes and beliefs about sex, rape culture and community involvement. Yet this article also expounds on the idea that education is a part of a much larger picture of prevention. Prevention has many dimensions. In fact, the spectrum of prevention, developed by Larry Cohen, ranges from: influencing policy and legislation, to changing organizational practices, to fostering coalitions and networks, educating providers, promoting community education, to strengthening individual knowledge and skills.

This creates a broader strategy for sexual violence prevention and these are all levels that BARCC staff and volunteers have engaged. Our relationships matter and help us so much in our mission. We are truly grateful. One example is how we work with young people, especially in school settings.  Current research shows that when working with adolescents in class rooms, workshops are not enough. Nan Stein and Bruce Taylor, researcher at the Wellesley Centers for Women, have done studies in Ohio and New York covering 2700 students that show that classroom workshops alone do not reduce sexual violence.

However, class room workshops along with building-level interventions reduced sexual harassment 32 to 47% (in the category of peer-to-peer sexual violence). The building interventions alone reduced physical and sexual dating violence by about 50% up to six months after the study was done. When you cover various points on the spectrum of prevention it leads to a wider impact. Working with students is awesome and I have learned so much from them about their schools. Ideally, this work has impact in mind, with the goal of involving more of the community.

So meeting with potential partners carries a lot of hope for changing the community and planning for long term solutions. The DTR is important to maximize everyone’s efforts. Seeking out our mutual goals while planning as much as possible to be involved in other levels of prevention, reaps a reward for all those involved especially those benefiting from the community. They also produce more consistent messages for youth that interact with other students and teachers. That’s why sitting across the table from someone who is interested in prevention is more than just chitchat. Sometimes it’s the building blocks to a more healthier vision. It can open the door to even greater possibilities

WRITTEN BY: Claudia, Educator at BARCC

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Posted by stacey

Stacey formerly served BARCC as the coordinator for Community Awareness and Outreach. Prior to BARCC, she worked for the Navy as a sexual assault response coordinator and volunteered for the DC Rape Crisis Center. She got involved with anti-rape work during college and has enjoyed doing both direct services and educational work.

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