Prevention Program Manager
When we think about prevention, it’s important to recognize that violence doesn’t exist in a vacuum; that is to say it doesn’t “just happen”. Often violence victimization and perpetration are attributed to individual factors, and while these can play a part, focusing solely on these individual factors, unfortunately, has led to unintended harmful consequences for survivors. We see this play out in many ways in our society, for example giving girls tips to stay safe (don’t set your drink down at a party, carry your keys between your fingers walking to your car at night, don’t wear clothing deemed “too sexy” or revealing, etc.). Giving these “tips” to young girls puts the responsibility on them, sending the message “do these things in order to not be assaulted”. When in reality, someone could do all of these things and still be harmed. Our focus should instead be on addressing the conditions that made it possible for one person to harm or assault another person.
There are a number of factors on individual, relationship, community, and societal levels that contribute to violence. In our work, we refer to this as the Social-Ecological Model. Using this framework, we can identify the risk factors (those factors that increase the risk of violence) and protective factors (those things that reduce the chances that violence will occur in the first place) on all of these levels. Using the social-ecological model, we are able to take into consideration all of the different factors that create the conditions for violence to occur so we can implement multi-tiered approaches that address all levels of the social-ecology, which will ultimately bring about intentional, long-lasting change.
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