Community-Level Approaches to Prevent Sexual Violence

  • Sarah DeGueEmail author
  • Tracy N. Hipp
  • Jeffrey H. Herbst


Sexual violence is a multifaceted problem nested within multiple interacting domains of the social ecology. Decades of research have resulted in better understanding of the etiology and scope of sexual violence–and the need for effective prevention efforts has never been clearer. However, most prevention efforts to date have focused only on changing individual- and relationship-level risk—and very few have demonstrated any lasting effectiveness. Social and cultural norms, environmental factors, and other contextual factors can exacerbate or mitigate risk for sexual violence. To achieve population-level change, we must also address aspects of our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and broader culture that promote or condone this violence. Little has been done on this front—and the lack of rigorous, evidence-based research on comprehensive primary prevention approaches poses a challenge. A critical next step for the field is to identify and rigorously evaluate strategies that modify characteristics of the community itself—through programs, policies, or practices—to reduce the risk for sexual violence at the population level. This chapter describes three potential steps, based on the current state of the research literature, which can be used to begin identifying promising community-level strategies for implementation and evaluation. It also describes five promising approaches with strong potential for preventing sexual violence based on the best available research evidence: economic support for women and families, leadership and empowerment of girls, safety and monitoring in schools, protective workplace policies, and environmental approaches to mitigate community-level risk for sexual violence. Additionally, this chapter describes methodological issues in community-level prevention research, data sources for this work, and research designs to begin establishing the evidence base necessary to achieve population-level change and eliminate sexual violence.


Sexual violence Rape Community level Prevention Policy 



The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah DeGue
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tracy N. Hipp
    • 2
  • Jeffrey H. Herbst
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Violence PreventionCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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