Prevention – Part II
Tanya Singleton, BSN, MPH, RNC, LCCE – Counseling Intern
In our last prevention blog, we mentioned several guidelines developed by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. Let’s focus on the first guideline – developing prevention strategies that promote protective factors. Strategies such as these are best developed early, and programs can focus on developmentally appropriate educational programs to promote and sustain the development of healthy sexuality. This dovetails into another blog that discussed ways to decrease bystander apathy; reinforcing healthy, age appropriate, mutually respectful and safe behaviors.
One program laid a foundation for healthy sexuality by working to remove shame and silence about aspects of sexuality. Another important aspect of this guideline is the promotion of strategies to encourage healthy relationships among peers; between youth and their older role models, and those who have been entrusted with their well-being, such as parents, teachers, caregivers, coaches, youth group leaders, etc.
The second guideline encourages the development of strategies that strive to be comprehensive. It is not realistic to attempt to have all strategies housed in one service provider, few programs have the resources to be effective at all levels of the social ecological strata – individual, relationship, community and societal. It is suggested that activities take place in multiple settings; school as well as church-based curricula. Programs should be designed to complement each other – in other words, a unified message that is addressed at all levels and in multiple settings.
The third guideline suggests that effective strategies are those prevention strategies that are concentrated, and can be sustained and expanded over time. High contact/exposure produces more sustainable results. Research has shown that one-time programs focused on raising awareness rarely produce behavioral change. It is important to note that these programs include strategies that reinforce the message through a variety of developmentally-appropriate activities that encourage the use and practice of skills learned. It is also crucial that the program addresses the individual, relationship and community levels in the same concentrated and sustained manner.
The fourth guideline encourages strategies that use varied teaching methods to address multiple learning processes. Such strategies include using active/interactive approaches to engage multiple learning styles, provide opportunities to practice skills learned, includes modeling of healthy relationships, and operate with the premise that each individual is a teacher and a learner.
I must share an example of a local program that meets these guidelines, and although its primary focus is not SV and IVP, it uses these principles effectively in its delivery of risk-avoidance skills. The Rappahannock Teen Awareness Program, known as RappTAP (yuw8), has evolved from a program that initially delivered a one-time, once a year message to high school students (only because that was the only venue open to the program) to one which delivers a risk-avoidance message to middle and high-school teens, utilizing the Worth the Wait© curriculum to teach students about healthy choices in regards to sexual activity, substance use, violence, and healthy relationships. In venues that allow the delivery of the full curriculum, the students are given detailed information regarding the consequences of risky behavior, followed by interactive vignettes that include role-playing, review of media clips, activities which provide analysis and synthesis of information, and homework. This instruction is presented during the Family Life Education segment of the school year schedule. The program has a parental information and education portion available which is offered to parents in community settings as available, and community awareness is enhanced by participation in health fairs and the like.
I will also add that in the first year of implementing this curriculum, several children felt safe in coming forth to identify themselves as having been victims of sexual violence, leading to the apprehension and conviction of at least one perpetrator. This trend has continued over the years.
Lee, D., Guy, L., Perry, B., Sniffen, C., Alamo Mixson, S. (2007) Sexual Violence Prevention. The Prevention Researcher, 14 (2), pp. 15-20.
Sexuality and Social Change: Making the Connection Strategies for Action and Investment (2006). Ford Foundation: New York, NY.
Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance (2009) Guidelines for the Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence and Intimate Partner Violence. Richmond, VA: Author.