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Spectrum of Prevention

The Spectrum of Prevention is a tool to understand and plan prevention strategies. The Spectrum is similar to the Socio-Ecological Model in that there are multiple, interconnected levels that helps to guide prevention work. First designed by Larry Cohen at the Prevention Institute, the Spectrum of Prevention guides rape prevention education programs throughout the country.

Level 1: Strengthening Individual Knowledge and Skills
Enhancing an individual’s capacity of preventing injury or illness and promoting safety
Level 2: Promoting Community Education
Reaching groups of people with information and resources to promote health and safety
Level 3: Educating Providers
Informing providers who will transmit skills and knowledge to others
Level 4: Fostering Coalitions and Networks
Bringing groups and individuals together for broader goals and greater impact
Level 5: Changing Organizational Practices
Adopting regulations and shaping norms to improve health and safety
Level 6: Influencing Policy Legislation
Developing strategies to change laws and policies to influence outcomes.

The six different levels of the Spectrum of Prevention are interrelated and work in synergy to maximize the impact of any one activity occurring on any given level. Primary prevention of sexual assault comes from social norms change and environmental change. To effectively create a paradigm shift supportive of primary prevention efforts, change must occur on both the macro and micro levels of the spectrum. Traditional sexual assault prevention efforts have focus on the micro levels (levels 1 through 3), targeting individuals, communities, and direct service providers. While direct service work is crucial to educating and empowering individuals to prevent sexual assault survivors, macro level efforts (levels 4 through 6) institutionalize and sustain social norms change.

Spectrum of Prevention Sample Activities:

1. Strengthening Individual Knowledge and Skills

  • Provide multiple session skill-building programs that teach healthy sexuality and healthy and equitable relationships skills to high school students
  • Build the skills of bystanders to safely interrupt behavior such as sexist and homophobic harassment
  • Teach parents to address attitudes and behaviors in their children that support sexual violence

2. Promoting Community Education

  • Stage community plays that reinforce positive cultural norms, portray responsible sexual behavior, and models of bystander action
  • Hold religious and political leaders accountable for providing clear and consistent messages that sexual violence is not appropriate; model healthy, equitable relationships and healthy sexuality
  • Foster media coverage of sexual violence with a focus on underlying factors and solutions
  • Develop awards programs to publicly recognize responsible media coverage and community leadership to prevent sexual violence

3. Educating Providers

  • Train little league coaches to build skills to interrupt and address athletes’ inappropriate comments
  • and behaviors that promote a climate condoning sexual harassment and sexual violence
  • Train prison guards on rape prevention
  • Train nursing home providers on sexual violence prevention practices
  • Educate musicians, song writer, DJ’s, and producers about the impact of music lyrics and videos

4. Fostering Coalitions and Networks

  • [Resources for collaboration]
  • Foster partnerships between researcher/academics and community providers to strengthen evaluation approaches
  • Engage art organizations to promote community understanding and solutions
  • Engage grassroots, community-based organizations and sectors of government, including social services, health, public health, law enforcement and education
  • Engage the business sector to foster workplace solutions and build support among their peers

5. Changing Organizational Practices

  • Implement and enforce sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention practices in schools, workplaces, places of worship and other institutions
  • Implement environmental safety measures such as adequate lighting and emergency call boxes, complemented by community education and enforcement of policies
  • Encourage insurers to provide healthy sexuality promoting resources and materials

6. Influencing Policies and Legislation

  • Promote and enforce full implementation of the Title IX law
  • Establish policies at universities to provide sexual violence prevention curriculum to all students and training to all staff, and include funding as a line item in the university’s budget
  • Pass middle and high school policies to offer comprehensive sex education programs that include sexual violence prevention and address contributing factors in the school environment

For more information, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s document, “Sexual Violence and the Spectrum of Prevention: Towards a Community Solution”.