Turning great ideas into healthier communities


Where We're Going and Where We've Been: Making the Case for Preventing Sexual Violence

2018 | Read the full guide

Share this guide with a tweet: As the #MeToo movement evolves and we consider how best to support survivors, we must work to prevent assault and abuse in the first place. A new messaging guide from @PHIdotorg's @BMSG and @RalianceOrg can help everyone make the case for #prevention. http://bit.ly/2wxCoZO

Helping people understand that sexual violence can be prevented is a critical step toward a future where abuse and assault are rare. To make the case for prevention, public health leaders need to go beyond the scope of the problem and articulate what to do about it. Where We're Going and Where We've Been: Making the Case for Sexual Violence Prevention was developed in collaboration with PHI's Berkeley Media Studies Group and RALIANCE to provide concrete guidelines for developing effective messages that highlight the need for prevention.

Download the guide

"When people talk about prevention, they typically focus on individuals changing their own behaviors: taking self-defense classes, for example, or managing how much alcohol they drink," said Pamela Mejia, BMSG's head of research. "These approaches or other personal safety steps may reduce the risk of sexual violence for some, but if we are to arrive in a world where everyone is safer, where sexual violence isn't tolerated, then we need to change systems, structures, and institutions."

This guide will help do just that. Chapter 1 describes overall strategy, the reasons messages are developed, and the context in which messages are delivered. "This is important because before you can decide what to say, you must know what you want to change, who has the power to change it, and why it needs to be changed. Having this clear overall strategy can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your communication by helping you allocate time, money, and effort only where they will truly help advance your goals," said BMSG communications research associate, Daphne Marvel.

Chapter 2 offers concrete advice on constructing messages that help people manage complicated emotions about sexual assault and move them toward supporting prevention. Effective messaging can help people understand that prevention is possible and take action. BMSG's research shows that this is possible by:
  • Evoking shared values
  • Acknowledging negative feelings, like discomfort, fear, or lingering doubts
  • Describing a journey toward change, its starting point, and pivotal moments
  • Stating the problem precisely
  • Showing success
  • Naming concrete solutions
Chapter 3 brings the puzzle pieces together, applying what readers have learned about communicating effectively about sexual violence prevention to specific examples of systems-level change. 
This guide exists because sexual violence doesn't have to be a fact of life. "Prevention is happening every day, but it won't become the norm unless more people become part of it," wrote the authors.