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SARTs and Prevention: Spectrum of Prevention and Systems-Change

In our April webinar, we talked about how teams need to have a shared understanding of prevention. As with many other terms (like success and trauma-informed), prevention is a term that has many definitions and much confusion happens when people think they are talking about the same thing but really aren’t. Some people talk about prevention as community education. Others talk about only working with youth on healthy relationship skills or risk reduction. The framework of prevention that clicks most with me, and that I think will resonate with many SARTs, is the spectrum of prevention in the following image:


For teams that have considered whether prevention is the right fit for their team, this is a model they could follow. This model incorporates prevention into the team’s longer-term systems-change work to really have a long-lasting impact in the community and the response.

My co-presenter, Adrianna Perez,  on the webinar shared a story about how she saw this intersection of prevention and response play out in a community she worked in.

The community identified an issue – a lot of sexual assaults were happening at or after people were at local bars. The advocacy program decided to dive deep into the issue and learn all that they could. They recognized that this issue needed the insight of multiple stakeholders, so they formed a multi-disciplinary group to help better identify the issues and make changes (like a SART!). They developed a prevention curriculum that could help local bars and people better understand alcohol-facilitated sexual assault. They also saw the need for cross-training amongst the disciplines at the table. The multi-disciplinary group identified different ways they could prevent alcohol facilitated sexual assaults and reduce sexual harassment in the bars, which resulted in the implementation of agency policies and cross-disciplinary protocols.  By working with the local government, they were able to provide a reduced liquor license fee for bars who engaged in the program.

I love that story because it both spans the whole spectrum of sexual violence AND has multi-disciplinary systems-change at the heart of it. While not every issue can be worked on this way, following the spectrum of prevention and using it as a guidepost in your definition of prevention and your prevention efforts can help the efficiency and efficacy of the work. This process also does not need to be linear, you can develop a policy and then educate providers, for example.

Prevention work isn’t easy. Neither is the work of a SART! However, all of it is important as we work toward ending sexual violence, access to healing and justice for victims/survivors, increasing community safety, and holding those who offend accountable.

Tell us in the comments about an issue you might be able to work through with your team by following the spectrum of prevention!