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Preventing Violence

Prevention efforts are critical not only for the well-being of children but also to stop future family violence from occurring.

Prevention efforts are critical not only for the well-being of children but also to stop future family violence from occurring. Promoting healthy relationships and supporting parent survivors and families are important aspects of preventing violence. There are several frameworks commonly used to understand and measure violence prevention efforts, including the three below:  

1 – The socio-ecological model, originally created by Urie Bronfenbrenner in the late 1970s to better understand how individuals are affected by a complex range of social influences (University of Minnesota). This model was adapted for the field of violence prevention and is used often by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, Socio Ecological Model).

2 – The CDC’s Violence Prevention Strategies, including: Teaching safe and healthy relationship skills; Engaging influential adults and peers; Disrupting the developmental pathways toward partner violence; Creating protective environments; Strengthening economic supports for families; and Supporting survivors to increase safety and lessen harms (CDC, Preventing Intimate Partner Violence).

3 – The Prevention Institute’s Spectrum of Prevention, including: Influencing Policy and Legislation; Changing Organizational Practices; Fostering Coalitions and Networks; Educating Providers; Promoting Community Education; and Strengthening Individual Knowledge and Skills (Prevention Institute, Spectrum of Prevention).

These frameworks allow us to view violence prevention from a broad lens capturing the complexity and breadth of necessary approaches and strategies to address violence, and evaluate violence prevention efforts.

Violence prevention also is often categorized three ways:

Primary Prevention:

Activities that take place before violence has occurred to prevent initial perpetration or victimization (PreventIPV). An example of a primary prevention program is Coaching Boy Into Men which provides athletic coaches with a 12-session curriculum that is implemented with middle and high school athletes over the course of the athletic season before violence occurs to help young people foster healthy relationships, establish boundaries, and improve communication with their partners and peers.

Another example of primary prevention targeted at young people is the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence’s campaign, We Chose All of Us. This campaign was created by a group of young people for young people, and aims to encourage practices of self-reflection and storytelling in community – with family, friends, or neighbors, faith community, school, or work. In an attempt to address teen dating violence, it provides resources for community dialogues on community belonging, living in harmony, connecting to sacred water and earth, restoring spirit and humanity, and working stronger together. See our page for more information on preventing teen dating violence.

Secondary Prevention:

Immediate responses after violence has occurred to deal with short-term consequences and prevent future perpetration or victimization (PreventIPV). An example of secondary prevention is Men Stopping Violence’s Tactics and Choices, a one-time class offered to people who cause harm soon after their arrest. The class examines men’s use of abusive and intimidating tactics against women, and tactics used to enforce and maintain power and control.

Another example of a clinical secondary prevention program for children and families is Honoring Children – Making Relatives (HC-MR). HC-MR embeds the practices of Parent-Child Intervention Therapy (PCIT) into a framework that supports American Indian and Alaska Native traditional beliefs and parenting practices that regard children as being the center of the Circle. HC-MR is a treatment model for parents who have difficulty with appropriate parenting skills and for their children who have behavioral issues. It is a 12-16 session curriculum that curriculum addresses implementation and dissemination challenges in rural, isolated and reservation settings. It can be implemented as an immediate response to violence.

Tertiary Prevention:

Long-term responses after violence has occurred to deal with the lasting consequences of violence and offender treatment interventions (PreventIPV). Abusive Partner Intervention Programs (also known as Battering Intervention Programs) are examples of tertiary prevention. So are some fatherhood programs like Strong Fathers, which combines nurturing parenting skills with intimate partner prevention strategies. It uses fatherhood as a motivator for people who cause harm, so that they can break the intergenerational cycle of violence. 

Another example of a tertiary prevention program is A Window Between Worlds (AWBW). AWBW is a a trauma-informed healing art workshop for children and families with over 600+ workshops searchable by age-level, art supply, emotional theme and more with links to tips, highlights, quotes and variations created by hundreds of Windows Facilitators. AWBW has been committed to offering art as an equitable and inclusive tool to support everyone working to break cycles of violence and trauma. Additionally, over the past 5 years, our curriculum has grown to include culturally responsive workshops, and our trainings continue to expand on racism, oppression, and marginalization as forms of individual and intergenerational trauma. AWBW can be used as a long-term tertiary prevention approach but has also been used as an intervention/secondary prevention program.

In addition to domestic violence, survivors from communities that have experienced systemic violence like colonization, racism and ableism might experience intergenerational trauma. One means to begin addressing intergenerational trauma is through community-led and culturally specific healing practices and programs for Indigenous survivors, Black survivors, survivors with disabilities, and survivors from other oppressed communities.

In the 2022 Healing Indigenous Lives Native Youth Town Halls held by UNITY, Inc.  and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Native youth expressed the importance of belonging and connectedness; elders; being on their ancestral homeland or reservation; talking circles, ceremonies, pow wows, or youth councils to feel a sense of safety in their community (UNITY, Inc). These town halls confirm the need for multi-faceted prevention efforts that not only span across the social ecology and spectrum of prevention, but also promote community, cultural, and spiritual connectedness. These are elements that are not often considered nor fit into simple categories that are commonly seen as primary, secondary, and tertiary violence prevention. This speaks to the need to expand our understanding of violence prevention beyond conventional models and frameworks and the importance of listening to the needs of communities when designing prevention programs.

Other innovative prevention strategies include:

Prevention isn’t always a program, and sometimes prevention strategies might not address violence directly but instead work to create better living conditions for families and children to thrive. Prevention can look like improving economic conditions for families such as increasing minimum wage, or access to affordable child care and housing, or community building and increasing cultural and spiritual connections. All of these efforts are connected by a vision of a more equitable world, and where violence and oppression are addressed at the root.