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Projects: Sexual Violence Prevention Project

The Sexual Violence Prevention Initiative (SVPI) was a partnership with the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault and 22 community-based agencies that served victims of sexual violence and their communities. Its goal was to integrate primary prevention strategies into the agencies’s existing activities.

Preventing Perpetration of Sexual Violence

The Centers for Disease Control has identified several factors that are associated with an increased likelihood of committing acts of sexual violence. Based on these findings, SVPI and its partners worked to realize the following six goals:

Develop Community Connectedness: Males aged 13 to 39 and those exposed to family and community violence are at highest risk for perpetrating sexual violence. This goal sought to connect these males to community supports that promote hope, security, and a sense of options.

Encourage Bystander Intervention: Pro-Social Moral Reasoning skills can curb risky behaviors and attitudes before offending behavior occurs. This goal sought to enhance these skills in middle-school through college-aged students and the institutions that serve them.

Support Gender Equality & Healthy Social Norms: Communities that are likely to blame victims and that have rigid gender roles place females at greater risk of being victimized. This goal sought to create social norms that support gender equality, healthy sexuality, and increased focus on male accountability for acts of sexual violence.

Cultivate Empathy and Attachment: People with little empathy or attachment are at greater risk of perpetrating sexual violence. Because these traits are formed early in life and are affected by exposure to abuse and neglect, this goal sought to increase empathy skills among young, at-risk children and promote their healthy attachment to caregivers and parents.

Promote Policies to Protect Disabled and Incarcerated Populations: Data shows these populations experience higher levels of victimization and perpetration. This goal sought to strengthen institutional polices aimed at increasing supervision and risk screening of people in jails, prisons, detention facilities, and group residences for the disabled.

Expand Media Literacy Skills: People exposed to uncensored, sexualized media without sufficient ability to judge and question their messages may develop high-risk norms regarding sexual violence. This goal sought to teach people to identify and critique negative sexualized mass media and understand its impact.

Why We Need This Project

Historically, most work against sexual violence has focused on teaching women and girls how to protect themselves or prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence after a violent act has occurred. SVPI focuses on primary prevention—addressing the risks that may lead to acts of violence. It involves working with entire communities to challenge norms that tolerate sexual violence and teach healthy alternative behaviors. SVPI’s work was guided by the Prevention and Public Education Committee of the Governor’s Advisory Council Against Sexual Assault, the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Division on Women.

For more information, contact project director Nancy Smith.