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In communities all across the country, domestic violence and sexual assault traumatize victims, endanger children and harm families. Over the last 30 years, and as a result of the women’s movement, laws have been enacted to hold abusers and batterers accountable and victim services have been implemented.
Due to the “newness” of society’s awareness of and willingness to do something about these problems, early efforts have focused on crisis intervention, providing services to individuals and families affected by domestic violence and sexual assault, and holding abusers and batterers accountable. To date, little is known about how to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.
Preventing domestic violence and all forms of sexual assault requires addressing complex issues with comprehensive approaches. It involves addressing the underlying causes of both problems and using strategies and approaches known to be effective in addressing those causes.
There are very few research-based strategies that have been shown, through the application of rigorous and repeatable scientific studies, to provide promising preventive outcomes. Many theories exist, but experts are still trying to understand what works to help young people grow up without the need to sexually assault others or to exert power and control over those they love.
Increasing numbers of researchers are interested in studying these problems, as more federal and private funding is made available. It is through this research that promising practices and newly emerging ideas may lead us, someday, to a community free from these problems.
In the meantime, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention program at the Seattle Human Services Department has made the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault a top priority. In addition to funding several promising prevention-related programs, such as teaching teens healthy relationship skills, we are guiding the City’s efforts in policy and program development in these areas.
Programs for teens aimed at preventing violent relationships
Asian Counseling and Referral Service Get REAL Program
Since 2009, the Seattle Human Services Department has funded a program aimed at preventing dating violence, and domestic and sexual violence, by helping teens build healthy and respectful relationships. The program is called, Get REAL (Relationship Education and Life Skills)/ Building Healthy Teen Relationships, and is operated by Asian Counseling and Referral Service. The program is conducted at Washington, Madison and Mercer middle schools for young people ages 10 to 14, in partnership with the YMCA, which runs community learning centers at each school.
As part of the program, high school mentors from Garfield, West Seattle and Franklin high schools co-facilitate 12 to 15 interactive group sessions at each middle school for a total of 7 groups during the school year and summer. The curriculum is adapted from the evidence-based Fourth R Project from the University of Ontario. Sessions focus on topics such as healthy/unhealthy relationships, contributors to violence, conflict resolution and media violence. The project, which is patterned after work done by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Family Violence Prevention Fund has a component that seeks to engage and provide education and information to teachers, school counselors, and parents of the young people involved, and opportunities for youth to participate in media campaign activities to increase teen awareness of dating violence and healthy relationships.
Powerful Voices Powerful Choices program
In 2011, the Seattle Human Services Department funded a a program targeting female and female-identified teens between 10 -17 years to develop positive relationship skills aim at reducing their vulnerability to dating violence and sexual exploitation by third parties. Powerful Voices teamed up with Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress and the Northwest Network to build the Powerful Choices DV Youth Skills Building Program.
The program targets low-income, truant middle school age girls at Asa Mercer, Aki Kurose and Denny International Middle Schools who are at risk of running away or homelessness and are most vulnerable to exploitive relationships. The program also has a community site targeting female-identified LGBTQQ youth. All programs provide 30 hours of group work.
Promising Practices in Sexual Violence Prevention and Community Mobilization for Prevention: A Report to the City of Seattle, by Erin Casey, Ph.D., MSW
For more information, call the Seattle Human Services Department’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention program at 206-233-2774.
For more information about our partners and other programs and services, visit:
Seattle Human Services Department
Accommodations for people with disabilities provided upon request.