Prevention Corner: Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as Sexual Violence Primary Prevention

Feb 10th, 2023

By Maddy LaCure, Policy Advocate for Prevention and Education 

In the last year, I have participated in numerous trainings by national leaders in sexual violence prevention, preventionists at other coalitions, and community builders in this movement. I have learned so many new and innovative ways that communities are working to prevent sexual violence and expand best practices. Community leaders and advocates are creating new pathways to prevention. For instance, building green spaces and community gardens is sexual violence prevention. Expanding job training and economic opportunities to the LGBTQ+ community is sexual violence prevention. Redesigning college campus communal spaces is sexual violence prevention. These expansive strategies challenge general understandings of prevention and help us reimagine our programming to create safe communities.

Primary prevention efforts that may have historically been siloed as independent issues often overlap and create a space for us to target numerous social issues by getting to the shared root causes of sexual violence. Working to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is another area for collaboration in primary prevention. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are defined by the CDC as potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years), such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect and witnessing violence in the home or community (CDC, 2022). 61% of adults in the U.S. experience at least one ACE and 16% experience 4 or more types of ACEs throughout their childhood (CDC, 2019). Exposure to ACEs also leads to significant negative health impacts in adulthood.

Many forms of violence often have overlapping risk and protective factors. Risk factors can lead to a society where violence is prevalent and normalized, while protective factors can break down systemic and social barriers to build healthy, safe, and thriving communities. Sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and ACEs share many of these overlapping risk factors such as isolation and disconnection from peers and community and economic stress. They also share many protective factors like families who create nurturing and safe relationships, social norms and communities where violence is not acceptable, and access to safe and stable housing.

We can examine these shared risk and protective factors to address multiple issues. Improving our outreach, education, and strategies to break cycles of violence in families and communities can reduce risk factors for these multiple forms of violence and increase protective factors to change our cultural and societal norms for future generations. We can engage parents, caregivers, and families in our prevention and education conversations with and about children and young adults. We can also work on policies that support families and children by relieving some of the burden of economic stress and strain through more accessible (and universally free) childcare, flexible workplace policies and support for parents and caregivers, and outside the box services and benefits that can support employees as full humans with immense responsibilities and needs outside of work.

Both the ACES Prevention Strategy (2020) and the STOP SV Technical Package (2016) from the CDC include teaching skills as an approach to preventing these types of violence and adverse experiences. We can simultaneously be working with parents and caregivers on skills to handle stress, manage emotions, and deal with everyday challenges, while also providing healthy relationship education, boundary setting, and consent education to both parents and youth at age appropriate levels to build these foundational skills across generations. There are vast opportunities for cross-sector collaboration and the improvement of health outcomes for our communities and families.



Adverse Childhood Experiences: Preventing Early Trauma to Improve Adult Health. CDC. (5 November, 2019). Retrieved from:

Adverse Childhood Experiences Prevention Strategy FY2021-FY2024. CDC. (September 2020). Retrieved from:

Fast Facts: Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences. CDC. (6 April, 2022). Retrieved from:

STOP SV: A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence. CDC. (2016). Retrieved from:


Other Related Articles:

Ports KA, Ford D, Merrick MT. Adverse childhood experiences and adult sexual victimization Child Abuse and Neglect. 2016;51, 313-322.

Miller E, Breslau J, Chung WJ, Green JG, McLaughlin KA, Kessler RC. Adverse childhood experiences and risk of physical violence in adolescent dating relationships. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2011 Nov 1;65(11):1006-13.

Whitfield CL, Anda RF, Dube SR, Felitti VJ. Violent childhood experiences and the risk of intimate partner violence in adults: assessment in a large health maintenance organization J Interpers Violence.2003;18(2):166–185.

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