In the State of Iowa in 2008, 70.8% of rape victims knew their attacker. (IA Uniform Crime Report 2008)
IowaCASA’s Sexual Violence Prevention Programming
One day, a fisherman was fishing from a river bank when he saw someone being swept downstream, struggling to keep their head above water. The fisherman jumped in, grabbed the person, and helped them to shore. The survivor thanked the fisherman and left, and the hero dried himself off and continued fishing. Soon he heard another cry for help and saw someone else being swept downstream. He immediately jumped into the river again and saved that person as well. This scenario continued all afternoon. As soon as the fisherman returned to fishing, he would hear another cry for help and would wade in to rescue another wet and drowning person. Finally, the fisherman said to himself, “I can’t go on like this. I’d better go upstream and find out what is happening.”
This public health analogy of “moving upstream” to prevent tragedies from occurring downstream is taught in many public health courses and is relevant for any dialogue on sexual violence prevention. It is presented as a catalyst for discussion and to convey how important it is to have strong teams along the river building safe passage.
Public health interventions are often grouped into three prevention categories based on when the intervention occurs. Sexual violence interventions can be divided into the following three categories:
• Primary Prevention: Approaches that take place before sexual violence has occurred to prevent initial perpetration or victimization.
• Secondary Prevention: Immediate responses after sexual violence has occurred to deal with the short-term consequences of violence.
• Tertiary Prevention: Long-term responses after sexual violence has occurred to deal with the lasting consequences of violence and sex offender treatment interventions.
IowaCASA’s prevention efforts focus on the primary prevention of sexual violence. We believe that sexual violence is a learned behavior, and that we can teach our children safer, healthier alternatives. In other words, we believe that sexual violence is preventable. We believe that victims are never responsible for being assaulted, and that a true prevention message must focus on both the perpetrators of violence and the bystanders who are afraid to speak up or get involved. We are grounded in the belief that a single individual or organization cannot address the problem alone, but instead that we must come together as communities, sharing resources and expertise and working together to build a world free from sexual violence.
Resistance to sexual violence has been occurring for centuries. Building on these acts of opposition, women began a movement to end sexual violence more than 30 years ago. The movement has made strides in breaking society’s collective silence, addressing issues of oppression and inequity, and forging new policies, all while supporting survivors, families, and friends. The rich history of advocacy provides a set of tools, knowledge, networks, and skills for intervention after sexual violence, as well as prevention before violence has occurred.
Please explore the prevention section of our website for more resources and information about preventing sexual violence in your family, in your school, or in your community. If you’re interested in any more information, please contact the Education Prevention Specialist.
Adapted from “Sexual Violence and the Spectrum of Prevention”, published by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and “Sexual Violence Prevention: Beginning the Dialogue” published by the Centers for Disease Control.