Prevention efforts are generally considered in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary prevention involves efforts to reduce the incidence of a problem among a population before it occurs. The goal of secondary prevention is to target services to select (at-risk) individuals, in an effort to decrease the incidence of a problem by reducing known or suspected risk factors. Tertiary prevention involves attempts to minimize the course of a problem once it is already clearly evident and causing harm, which in the current instance involves the identification of domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault (SA) perpetrators and victims, control of the behavior and its effect, punishment and/or treatment for the perpetrators, and support for the victims.
In terms of DV and SA, primary prevention strategies introduce new values, thinking processes, and relationship skills to particular population groups that are incompatible with violence and that promote healthy, non-violent relationships. For example, resources can be used to focus on respect, trust, and supportive growth in relationships. A clear advantage is that these efforts can be targeted universally, at broad population groups, such as school-age children or members of a particular community. Secondary prevention efforts are directed toward identified individuals who have exhibited particular behaviors (e.g., dating violence) or possess certain risk factors (e.g., male; prior exposure to violence) that are associated with domestic violence and sexual assault.
*National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
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