What can we do to prevent sexual violence?
It’s the question we hear from community members, policymakers, educators, and colleagues. In many ways, all of our work touches on prevention. Perpetrators are punished, in part, to provide deterrence. Protective orders and peace orders are issued to prevent future violence. Even counseling can have a preventative effect as we work with clients to help them set boundaries and recognize abusive behavior.
This issue of Frontline looks at current issues in primary prevention. In the past, prevention efforts often focused on potential victims — primarily women and girls — and employed risk reduction strategies. These techniques sometimes drifted into victim blaming by suggesting that victims who don’t take steps to “reduce risk” are somehow at fault. As advocates have pushed to focus on those responsible for sexual violence, prevention work has targeted potential perpetrators, bystanders, and social norms.
Prevention Corner: The Changing Face of Prevention Education focuses on new prevention resources and campaigns that are happening as we move away from the prevention message “don’t get raped.” Prevention work should respond to the needs of different communities. If campaigns fail to communicate in a way that people hear what is said, they will not be effective. Prevention in the LGBTQIA Community addresses prevention work within the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer/intersex/asexual community.
Law traditionally addresses prevention through criminal and family law, but 19 states have adopted “Erin’s Law.” Erin’s Law requires schools to use an age appropriate curriculum on sexual abuse prevention in pre-k through 12th grade. It educates children on safe touch, unsafe touch, safe secrets, unsafe secrets, how to “get away and tell today.” Maryland traditionally leaves curricular issues to school boards, but we may see movement on Erin’s Law with the start of a new term.
Our regular feature, SafetySync, continues with the theme of prevention by describing the Circleof6 app, a way to seek help if you are in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
Finally, this issue’s Program Spotlight highlights the Life Crisis Center on the Lower Eastern Shore. The Life Crisis Center serves Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties. It serves multiple populations including survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse and has an extensive outreach and prevention program. The Life Crisis Center is a leader in the state, never hesitating to speak up when policies need changing or policymakers need to act to help sexual assault survivors.
Please remember to vote next Tuesday and to contact the people we elect to remind them that part of their job is to end sexual violence in Maryland.
Lisae C. Jordan, Esq.
Executive Director & Counsel
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault