Primary Prevention of Sexual Assault and Abuse – Position Statement

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The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault works to end all forms of sexual violence and exploitation by advocating for appropriate, effective crisis intervention and prevention approaches. We support efforts that prevent violence before it begins, by addressing risk factors of the perpetration of sexual violence at the individual, relational, community, and societal levels. We believe that sexual violence can be stopped by creating an environment that supports respectful behavior, gender equity, and non-violent social norms. We believe that dedication to programs that work towards this is crucial.  NYSCASA believes that prevention should focus on promoting healthy relationships, respect for all people, and equality across the gender, social, and economic spectrums. Sexual violence is rooted in oppression and the belief that one group of people deserves to have power over another group of people. Understanding all people as worthy of respect negates feelings of entitlement and superiority that permit a person to commit an act of sexual violence against another person.

NYSCASA believes that ending sexual violence is possible, but that it requires a societal shift in the norms we promote. We need to change the environment that currently allows sexual violence to occur. Our society perpetuates norms that support male superiority and sexual entitlement, and we have a high tolerance for violent acts and crimes. Combined with limited social and economic opportunities, weak sanctions against sexual violence, and a lack of supportive communities, these factors contribute to a toxic environment that can allow people to perpetrate sexual violence.

NYSCASA believes that this shift will occur if prevention efforts and non-violent norms are supported and reinforced on multiple levels. Young children should receive age-appropriate, culturally specific, evidence-based (appropriate and effective) messages in the classroom, and those messages about non-violence and respect should be reflected in the environment around them. Their interactions with the adults in their lives, such as teachers, coaches, community leaders, parents, and family members should mirror what they learn in school.  Since the laws and policies of a society send messages about what the people living under those policies should value, non-violence, respect and equality must be incorporated into our legal codes. The ideas behind thoughtful policies can only manifest and have a positive impact on the community if the people charged with upholding these policies also support and exhibit these values. Therefore, it is important that policy enforcers and community leaders understand and support non-violent norms as well.

NYSCASA believes that prevention efforts should be undertaken with the goal of minimizing the risk factors for perpetration, because sexual violence will only end when there are no longer people committing sexually violent acts. If individuals believe in respect, equality, and non-violence, and they interact with other people who share the same values, and those people live in a community that upholds laws and exhibits a low tolerance for violent behavior, the risk factors of perpetrating sexual violence are reduced greatly.

NYSCASA believes that funding for this work is critical, but that it must not be at the expense of funding for victim services. Sexual assault service providers respond to the needs of survivors, train professionals who interact with people who have experienced sexual violence, educate the community about the issues, provide outreach to promote the services they provide, and they do this important work of changing social norms and promoting non-violence in hopes that one day, no one will need their response services. The rape crisis programs and other organizations doing this work are frequently underfunded, understaffed, and overworked. Funding that will allow this work to continue and expand is necessary if we want to live in a world free from sexual violence.