Trainings: Preventing Sexual Violence in Your Community

A bystander witnesses a young man talking to a young woman holding drinks. Many available training resources can help communities in preventing sexual violence
Image: CDC

Educating public health professionals, educators, students, adults and businesses on the principles of preventing sexual violence through numerous available training resources can help reduce incidence in communities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, which provides Rape Prevention & Education (RPE) funding annually to each state, the ultimate goal of training and educational awareness for preventing sexual violence is to understand the range of factors that put people at risk for violence or protect them from experiencing or perpetrating violence.

The social-ecological model on CDC’s  VetoViolence tools and trainings are based on the interplay between individual, relationship, community and societal factors. In this article, we’ll cover how CDC’s resources and several others can help communities, public health professionals, educators and businesses to provide violence prevention training to various civic leaders and community groups.

Preventing Violence Training for Public Health Professionals

VetoViolence begins with Principles of Prevention, a free online course that explains the key concepts of primary prevention and the public health approach. There is a certificate for completion and CNE, CEU and CECH credits can be earned for taking the course.

In the public health approach, communities:

  • Define their specific risks for violence
  • Identify protective factors
  • Develop and test strategies to prevent violence
  • Disseminate and evaluate solutions

Public health professionals are not involved in every step, but they are seen as the people to lead a community in its efforts to reduce violence and prevent sexual violence.

Preventing Teen Dating Violence Training for Educators & Students 

“Remember, preventing violence before it happens means that we need to promote the protective factors for healthy relationships, and reduce the risk factors for unhealthy relationships,” according to VetoViolence.

CDC offers skills-building training to address perpetration, victimization or risk factors of sexual violence:

  • Social-emotional learning approaches
  • Teaching healthy, safe dating and intimate relationship skills to adolescents
  • Promoting healthy sexuality
  • Empowerment-based training for women to reduce risk for victimization

Safer Choices is another CDC-recommended multi-component educator and student training program focused on prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy and increasing protective behaviors among high school students.

Second Step offers kit-based programs to help middle school students, grades 6 through 8, become less aggressive and cope with changes. In May 2013, the Journal of Adolescent Health found schools that implemented the program were 42 percent less likely to say they were involved in physical aggression (fighting) compared with students in schools that did not implement the program. Refusing sexual harassment is addressed in the grade 7 classroom kit. The site offers a list of potential state and federal grant programs that can be accessed to purchase kits.

The One Love Foundation which addresses many aspects of intimate partner violence, including its connection to mass shootings, is another resource for free discussion guides for both teens and young adults.

Learn more about VetoViolence’s approaches, outcomes and evidence in the 2016 Stop SV Technical Package, which can be reviewed or downloaded below.

Explore Dating Matters relationship education resources for educators and youth leaders.

Access VetoViolence’s trove of more than 70 videos on Vimeo.

Preventing Sexual Violence Training for Adults 18+

According to the CDC, though sexual violence statistics underestimate the frequency because incidence can go unreported, one in three women and one in six men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their lives. CDC has reviewed several programs that are designed to reduce incidence of sexual violence among both women and men.

The Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act program by the University of Windsor is a 12-hour victimization prevention program for college-aged women. The goal of the trainings is to assess risk from acquaintances, overcome emotional barriers in acknowledging danger and use verbal and physical strategies to reduce risk for violence. According to CDC, a study of Canadian college women found participants were 50.4 percent less likely to have experienced a rape or attempted rape at one year follow-up than a control group of their peers that did not receive the training.

Learn about train the trainer opportunities on the Sexual Assault Resistance Educations Centre website.

CDC recommends mobilizing men and boy as allies in preventing sexual and relationship violence by offering sexual violence prevention training opportunities to peer groups, like sports teams or fraternities, or by recruiting men from school or community-based groups. One example is Coaching Boys Into Men, which offers downloadable toolkits.

Safe States, an organizations that works to prevent injury and violence, offers numerous links to sexual violence prevention strategies and resources, including Men Can Stop Rape and Men Stopping Violence, a national training institute that helps communities mobilize men to prevent violence against women, girls and others targeted for sex.

Preventing Sexual Violence Training for Bars, Restaurants & Other Business Employees

Bystander education is the focus of many training programs that seek to prevent sexual violence. With alcohol being the most common date rape drug, or the delivery mechanisms for other date rape drugs that quickly sedate or incapacitate their victims, bars, restaurants and other venues that serve alcohol present an opportunity to increase bystander training among business communities.

In 2016, grant funding brought the Safe Bars training program to numerous bars in the Washington, D.C. area, according to Huffington Post.

“Our first option, our first choice is to actually prevent sexual assault from ever happening,” Chad Atat, director of operations at Bar Louie in the Gulch neighborhood of Nashville, told WSMV in a story about a recent Safe Bar bystander training.

They’re (servers, bartenders) our front line and the people who can see it and get the right people involved to stop it right up front,” he said.

Underground Railroad in Saginaw, Michigan, which provides safety empowerment education, recently brought its free “Pre-Game” 90-minute training program to area bars, according to MLive. The training covers:

  • What sexual assault is
  • What consent is
  • The difference between flirting and sexual harassment
  • The effects of date rape drugs
  • Understanding the role alcohol can play in sexual assault
  • Dispelling “rape myths” that blame the victim

Shawn Schutt, sexual assault prevention educator for the organization, said it’s important for bar and restaurant staff to remember:

  • Someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol cannot consent to sexual activity.
  • Alcohol is the most commonly used date rape drug.
  • If you see someone who isn’t drinking much but is buying someone else a lot of drinks, that may be a red flag.
  • Pay attention to who people come into the bar with and who they meet there.
  • Most people who are sexually assaulted know their attacker. It’s possible, but far less common, to be attacked by a stranger.

While it is imperative that opportunities for training be made available in both the private and public domains, public safety leaders have the opportunity to set the tone within their organizations by discussing sexual harassment in the workplace with first responders and staff.

Access eight tips for talking about sexual harassment with EMS employees from Dr. David Nelson, human resources consultant with Fitch & Associates.

Learn more about preventing sexual assault trainings by reviewing or downloading the CDC’s Stop SV: A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence:

SV Prevention Technical Package by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Explore additional resources on preventing sexual violence and date rape:

$500K in Sexual Assault Prevention Grants (From NFL-Funded Raliance)

3 Steps for Improving Police Response to Trafficking Victims

5 Gadgets That Alert Drinkers to Date Rape Drugs

3 Steps for Improving Police Response to Trafficking Victims

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.