NYSCADV MEMORANDUM OF SUPPORT 

Currently not associated with any legislation

PROMOTING PRIMARY PREVENTION IN NEW YORK STATE

(click on memo title above for pdf version)

NYSCADV urges the New York State Legislature to supplement the current approaches to domestic violence by supporting primary prevention efforts in the state. 

WHAT DOES “PREVENTION” REALLY MEAN? 

Over the past three decades domestic violence advocates have successfully created programs and policies that effectively respond to domestic violence after it has happened. Numerous best practices exist including sheltering and supporting victims and their families, safety planning, support groups, legal and system advocacy, and more. Advocates work more closely with police, judges, attorneys and health care providers to ensure that victims and their children receive the care and the services they need. Coordinated community responses include strengthened policies in schools, work places, courts, other community based organizations as well as the agencies that work with people who have been victimized each day. These efforts fall into the categories of secondary (1) and tertiary (2) prevention practices. 

Yet, with all of these programs and services in place to respond to the needs of victims once violence has already happened, we have not stemmed the tide of domestic violence occurring in our communities. It is time to dedicate more resources, staff, and funds to stopping violence before it starts. Changing the norms in our communities that allow this violence to thrive is called primary prevention. 

WHAT IS PRIMARY PREVENTION? 

Primary prevention (3) goes beyond raising awareness of domestic violence and works to promote the behaviors we want to see adopted. Strategies are often focused on stopping potential perpetrators before they commit their first act. This is a relatively new concept for many working to end domestic violence whose focus has been on responding to the needs of people who have been victimized. People often confuse public awareness campaigns and risk reduction with prevention. Examples of risk reduction efforts used in schools and community initiatives include recognizing warning signs, self-defense courses, and tips for personal safety, i.e., don’t walk alone at night or park beside a van. Risk reduction strategies are important but will not prevent people from being victimized by stopping perpetration. 

Primary prevention strategies include: 

  • Working with children, their parents or caregivers to set expectations for healthy communication. 
  • Working with schools, workplaces and other community settings (faith-based organizations, neighborhoods, athletic associations, etc.) to change social norms. 
  • Saturating the community with healthy relationships messaging and promoting responsible bystander behaviors. 
  • Encouraging policies and promoting leaders that set an expectation for healthy relationships and communities. 

Primary prevention changes: 

  • Knowledge by providing clear information. Awareness can be raised in a one-time brief (up to one hour) session. 
  • Attitudes by providing information and appealing to emotions or personal impact. Some practice is necessary, as change takes time and occurs over multiple sessions. 
  • Beliefs and behaviors by showing and practicing new skills and communicating with others during the learning process. This occurs over multiple sessions. 

PRIMARY PREVENTION EFFORTS IN NEW YORK STATE 

Through our years of work towards the primary prevention of domestic violence we concluded that meaningful and lasting change happens at the community level and that our work must represent the geographic diversity of New York State. As such, our efforts focus on supporting communities to find effective and locally relevant methods for organizing and mobilizing to effect change. This includes promoting social change in communities by developing prevention activities, programs, and policies that change the attitudes, behaviors and community and societal level norms that allow intimate partner violence to thrive. 

SUPPORT THESE EFFORTS BY PROVIDING FUNDING THAT SUSTAINS PRIMARY PREVENTION EFFORTS 

Recognizing that having effective laws and methods for responding to violence once it has occurred is not enough of a deterrence, we ask the legislature to support primary prevention efforts by providing the funding necessary to sustain and replicate primary prevention efforts throughout New York State. Preventing domestic violence will require that all agencies and systems responsible for the public safety of our communities engage in efforts that also challenge the societal norms that allow domestic violence to thrive in our communities. Without that critical societal level change, no law will truly be effective enough to prevent domestic violence from happening in the first place. 

REFERENCES

(1) Secondary prevention includes activities that respond to violence once it has occurred with short-term solutions that address the needs of survivors and provide consequences for abusers. The intention is to prevent violence from happening again. 

(2) Tertiary prevention includes providing ongoing support to victims and ongoing accountability to abusers. 

(3) Primary prevention activities take place before domestic violence has occurred and are designed to prevent first time victimization or perpetration. Primary prevention activities can work in conjunction with intervention strategies that are already in place in community-based domestic violence programs.