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Sexual Violence: Prevention Strategies

Sexual violence is a serious problem that can have lasting, harmful effects on victims and their family, friends, and communities. The goal of sexual violence prevention is simple—to stop it from happening in the first place. The solutions, however, are just as complex as the problem.

Preventing sexual violence requires comprehensive prevention strategies that address factors at each level of the social ecology—individual, relationship, community, and society.

CDC’s STOP SV: A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence [2.85MB, 48Pages,508] highlights strategies based on the best available evidence to help communities and states prevent and reduce sexual violence. Many of the strategies focus on risk and protective factors for sexual violence perpetration to reduce the likelihood that an individual will engage in sexually violent behavior. The strategies and their corresponding approaches are listed in the table below.



Strategy Approach
S Promote Social Norms that Protect Against Violence
  • Bystander Approaches
  • Mobilizing men and boys as allies
T Teach Skills to Prevent Sexual Violence
  • Social-emotional learning
  • Teaching healthy, safe dating and intimate relationship skills to adolescents
  • Promoting health sexuality
  • Empowerment-based training
O Provide Opportunities to Empower and Support Girls and Women
  • Strengthening economic supports for women and families
  • Strengthening leadership and opportunities for girls
P Create Protective Environments
  • Improving safety and monitoring in schools
  • Establishing and consistently applying workplace policies
  • Addressing community-level risks through environmental approaches
SV Support Victims/Survivors to Lessen Harms
  • Victim-centered services
  • Treatment for victims of SV
  • Treatment for at-risk children and families to prevent problem behavior including sex offending

Example Programs

Below are some examples of programs described in the STOP SV technical package.

  • Safe Dates
    Program designed to prevent the initiation of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in adolescent dating relationships
  • Shifting Boundaries
    Program designed to reduce dating violence and sexual harassment among adolescents
  • Green Dot
    Bystander-based prevention program designed to reduce sexual and other forms of interpersonal violence perpetration and victimization
  • Second Step: Student Success Through Prevention (SS: SSTP)
    School-based program aimed at reducing bullying, peer victimization, and other problem behaviors
  • Coaching Boys Into Men
    Dating violence prevention program that uses the relationships between high school athletes and their coaches to change social norms and behaviors.
  • Bringing in the Bystander
    Bringing in the Bystander is a bystander education and training program designed for male and female college students.

Applying the Principles of Effective Prevention to Sexual Violence

Program planners can use existing prevention principles to strengthen their approaches and evaluate the effectiveness of new or existing programs. The prevention principles identified by Nation et al., in the resources below, are common characteristics of effective prevention strategies in behavioral health.

CDC Resources