Primary prevention efforts change conditions (laws, norms, rules) so that perpetration is less likely to happen. Strategies are designed to shift attitudes, behaviors, and norms that support and perpetuate the root causes of violence and to promote healthy behavior and communities. Primary prevention strategies are designed to prevent initial perpetration. Best practice strategies will be saturated, theory-driven, address multiple levels of the SEM, rooted in anti-oppression, address risk and protective factors, and informed by community needs/resources.

Examples may include:  

  • Workshops series to explore and practice skills related to healthy sexuality, equity, communication, or other qualities important to young people’s developmental needs.  
  • Bystander intervention program that trains students and faculty to interrupt oppressive language and implements campaigns and/or policies to create a healthy and non-violent community climate campus-wide.  
  • Community-led projects that identify specific root causes of violence and long-term, sustainable strategies to build power in marginalized communities.


Secondary and tertiary prevention, often referred to as our advocacy direct services, aim to improve short- and long-term outcomes for survivors (and perpetrators). Secondary prevention efforts occur immediately following an instance of violence to reduce short-term harms, while tertiary prevention efforts are long-term responses intended to minimize lasting harms and promote resiliency. This terminology is helpful in building a connection between survivor services and primary prevention. A community culture that believes and supports survivors and holds perpetrators accountable is a necessary building block towards ultimately preventing violence. When primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention are used together, they create a comprehensive response to sexual and domestic violence. 

Examples may include:  

  • On-going individual advocacy. 
  • Guidance & support in the legal system, especially around obtaining a protective order. 
  • Advocacy or therapeutic play groups for children who witness violence. 
  • Support groups. 
  • Offender management/treatment programs. 


Awareness and education programs increase people’s understanding of sexual and domestic violence. These strategies provide definitions, highlight the services offered in a community, describe the impact of violence, provide a scope of the prevalence, give information on how to help survivors, outline reporting options, and so on.

Examples may include:  

  • Community events such as a walk, fundraising gala, or survivor speak-out.  
  • Classroom sessions that present SA/IPV statistics, myths vs. facts, information about “date rape” drugs, how to support friends, and what students should do if they have experienced sexual assault or dating violence.  
  • Large group presentation (auditorium style) about warning signs and safety tips.  
  • A workshop for parents on what child sexual abuse is, how to identify signs of potential abuse, and how to make a report or access services. 


Risk reduction strategies focus on changing the behavior of the prospective victim by helping people “avoid” experiencing victimization. These programs are not designed to change the problem of sexual and intimate partner violence perpetration. While individuals can make an investment in their personal safety, ultimately only perpetrators are in control of when, where, and how violence happens. These strategies do not change the problem of violence and can sometimes reinforce victim-blaming attitudes.

Examples may include:  

  • Workshop or educational materials on personal safety strategies such as the buddy system, watching your drink, and carrying keys in your hand. 
  • Self-defense classes for women. 
  • Bystander intervention programs that focus on intervening when violence is already in progress or likely to occur. 
Illustration of different levels of prevention.

Have questions? Contact our prevention team by clicking here.

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