​What is sexual violence primary prevention?

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is defined as any sexual activity that is unwanted or not consented to, where manipulation or force are used. It can be:

  • adult to child
  • peer to peer
  • between intimate partners
  • perpetrated by a stranger.

The 2014 New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey found that up to 25% of women and 6% of men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. A 2012 literature review by the Ministry of Women's Affairs also reports that if someone is abused as a child, they're even more likely to experience further sexual violence in their life.

Sexual violence incidence and prevalence statistics

Preventing sexual violence

Sexual violence prevention is complex, with a lot of ethical issues to consider. There are three overarching strategies that work together to target sexual violence:

  • primary prevention — working with the general community to target the underlying causes of sexual violence
  • secondary prevention — working with at-risk communities
  • tertiary prevention — working with people who have already been victims or perpetrators of sexual violence.

Why primary prevention matters

Sexual violence primary prevention addresses the underlying causes of sexual violence, eg:

  • cultural values, beliefs and attitudes
  • knowledge and understanding
  • norms and behaviour.

Well-executed prevention campaigns can significantly change individual and community attitudes and behaviours, the way prevention campaigns targeting smoking and drink-driving have done.

Sexual violence primary prevention activities might include strategies to:

  • increase individuals' knowledge, awareness, and skills to reduce the likelihood that they'll become victims or perpetrators of sexual violence, eg by building skills around negotiating consent, identifying unsafe situations, and creating healthy relationships
  • build bystanders' motivation and capacity to intervene to prevent assaults
  • change the social norms supporting sexual violence, eg NZ's macho culture that normalises aggression and violence, or gender inequalities that contribute to sexual violence
  • influence policies or laws aimed at reducing sexual violence.

What works in sexual violence primary prevention