Primary Prevention

Ensuring quality services for victims/survivors of sexual violence is central to our work at MECASA. However, it must be partnered with effective prevention if we’re going to end sexual violence in Maine. For years, prevention has been primarily about victims, and the ways they can and should change their behavior to avoid sexual violence. More recently, this approach has been seen as putting the responsibility for sexual violence on survivors. Instead, across the country, there is a movement toward ‘primary prevention’- a kind of prevention that seeks to end sexual violence before it begins, and to put the responsibility of doing so on everyone.Primary prevention uses the public health model as a guide. Here’s how it works. People get sick; public health seeks to determine why, and what behavior can change this outcome. It turns out germs are the ‘why.’ So do we ask that only people with colds change their behavior? No– the public health model looks for solutions that everyone can implement to stop the spread of germs: washing your hands, sneezing into your arm, and more. And everyone is expected to do their part.

At MECASA, we ask everyone to do their part to end sexual violence- we ask why sexual assault occurs, and what behaviors we all can change to make a difference. We ask that everyone be an active bystander by standing up to bullying, aggression, street harassment, and sexism. We teach young people about healthy relationships, how to critically analyze media sources that objectify women (and men), and how to recognize and combat gender stereotypes. We help schools, businesses, and communities to create policies that promote respect and equality. Primary prevention is about changing our social and cultural norms in order to create a safer, healthier world for all of us.

Find Out More


The Prevention Connection (Prevent Connect) is a project of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, sponsored by the US Centers for Disease Control. They deliver national training on primary prevention through webinars, podcasts, an active blog, and a moderated national listserv:

The Prevention Institute

The Prevention Institute serves as a national focal point for primary prevention practice—promoting policies, organizational practices, and collaborative efforts that improve health and quality of life.

Further Reading

Primary Prevention: The Next Step in Sexual Violence Prevention Education

Though changing social norms has been a part of the anti-sexual violence movement since its beginning in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the term “primary prevention” was not systematically integrated into the work until the nation’s largest public health agency, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), began to address sexual violence in 2001. Thus, though the idea of addressing root causes is a fundamental component of our movement, the idea of addressing sexual violence as a public health issue through primary prevention is still a relatively new concept. This booklet explores those concepts and ways to use primary prevention in sexual violence prevention education efforts.

Sexual Violence and the Spectrum of Prevention

This publication, from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, is a key tool in sexual violence prevention work. This publication provides advocates, practitioners and educators with a guide for developing a comprehensive community approach to the primary prevention of sexual violence.

Sexual Violence Prevention: Beginning the Dialogue

Created by the Centers for Disease Control, Beginning the Dialogue identifies concepts and strategies that may be used as a foundation for planning, implementing, and evaluating sexual violence prevention activities.

Sexual Violence Prevention

Written by staff from the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and California Department of Health Services, this article appeared in the April 2007 issue of The Prevention Researcher. It highlights the foundations of effective sexual violence prevention that draw from both the feminist movement and from research based approaches in field such as public health.

Applying the Principles of Prevention: What Do Prevention Practitioners Need to Know About What Works?

This short article defines the nine principles of prevention education in straightforward language, with an action check list and examples for each one. It’s an excellent resource for educators seeking to improve the quality of their prevention programming.