Prevent sexual violence by promoting positive individual, relationship, community, and societal attitudes and behaviors.
Connecticut Communities-Healthy, Safe, and Free of Sexual Violence.
Program History and Overview
Sexual violence is a significant public health problem in the United States. Estimates from the 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey suggest that 1.9 million women and men are raped each year in the United States. The survey also estimates that 19.3% of women (or >23 million women) and 1.7% of men (or almost 2 million men) have been victims of a rape at some point in their lifetime. Nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced other forms of sexual violence victimization in their lifetime (e.g., made to penetrate someone, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact and non-contact unwanted sexual experiences). More than half of all lifetime rapes happen before age 18; almost one-third of rapes occur before age 12. Rape is the most costly of all crimes to its victims. According to the CDC, total costs are estimated to be $127 billion a year in the United States (excluding costs of child sexual abuse, costs incurred by businesses, criminal justice systems or society at large) as compared to costs of physical assault at $93 billion, murder at $71 billion, drunk driving at $61 billion, and child abuse at $56 billion. Total cost per incidence of adult sexual assault is estimated to be $87,000 which includes medical care, mental health services, loss of productivity, and pain and suffering. Due to its prevalence and far-reaching effect on society, sexual violence is a critical public health issue. It is important to have a comprehensive approach to prevention, services, and justice that goes beyond the current system. An effective Public Health approach can bring together diverse communities and professionals to address complex health and social conditions.
The Connecticut Sexual Violence Prevention Planning Committee (SVPPC) was created in 2007 with key partners from around the state to develop an eight-year sexual violence prevention plan. The SVPPC utilized the public health approach, supporting comprehensive primary prevention program planning at every socio-ecological level. The committee developed a sexual violence prevention program to shift the focus of sexual violence programs from risk reduction activities to primary prevention strategies and activities. The program aims to prevent sexual violence in Connecticut by increasing individual pro-social knowledge and attitudes, communication skills for respectful intimate and peer relationships, organizational and community capacity for prevention, and societal norms that do not tolerate gender-based sexual violence or other forms of inequalities.
The Sexual Violence Prevention Program, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), partners with Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services Inc. (CONNSACS) to provide primary prevention, education, training to health care providers, schools and universities, law enforcement, social services providers, and the community regarding primary prevention of sexual violence. This Program builds the capacity of Connecticut’s 9 rape crisis centers to provide direct services for rape and other sexual assault victims and their families such as: crisis intervention, individual counseling, free and confidential 24-hour hotlines, including local rape crisis centers and transportation as necessary.
Primary prevention is the foundation of the Sexual Violence Prevention program. Program activities are guided by a set of prevention principles that include:
Preventing first-time perpetration and victimization;
Reducing modifiable risk factors while enhancing protective factors associated with sexual violence perpetration and victimization;
Using the best available evidence when planning, implementing, and evaluating prevention programs;
Incorporating behavior and social change theories into prevention programs;
Using population-based surveillance to inform program decisions and monitor trends; and
Evaluating prevention efforts and using the results to improve future program plans.
The Sexual Violence Prevention Program encourages the development of comprehensive prevention strategies through a continuum of activities that address all levels of the social-ecological model. The model considers the complex interplay between individual, relationship, community and societal factors, and addresses risk and protective factors from multiple areas. This approach is more likely to prevent sexual violence across a lifetime than any single intervention. Activities carried out through vendors include:
Implementing primary prevention strategies such as engaging bystanders, educating youth about healthy relationships, and changing social norms;
Operating 24 hour free and confidential statewide hotlines in both English and Spanish;
Building state and local capacity for program planning, implementation, and evaluation; and
Evaluating state and local programs for outcomes and effectiveness.
Where Do You Stand? Connecticut
The Department of Public Health (DPH) partnered with the Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services Inc. (CONNSACS) and the nationally recognized Men Can Stop Rape Project, to build Connecticut’s first state-wide sexual violence prevention campaign known as Where Do You Stand? Connecticut (WDYS?CT). The WDYS? CT campaign implemented sexual violence prevention strategies using the public health approach. The campaign focuses on men by challenging attitudes and behaviors that contribute to anti-social tendencies and violent crimes and to encourage men to become active participants in sexual violence prevention.
According to the CDC, men perpetrate the majority of sexual violence acts in our society; however, in many cases, it is a small population of men committing multiple sexual assaults. The focus of WDYS? CT is on bystander intervention because while only a small percentage of men commit rape, many more men are likely to participate in cultures that support and justify violence against women and girls. Bystander interventions provide men with useful tools to stop a range of negative behaviors and to create an atmosphere where everyone is safe and respected. WDYS? CT professional trainings and educational sessions are being conducted across the state and at college campuses.
Policy and Legislation
During the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2014 Legislative session, state legislators examined ways to strengthen state law to improve the response of colleges and universities to sexual assault on campuses. CONNSACS was able to utilize the WDYS?CT campaign to educate and engage male legislators in sexual violence prevention.
CONNSACS worked with lawmakers on the passage of two important bills that highlight sexual violence prevention. The first is a new law, Public Act 14-196, AN ACT CONCERNING A STATE-WIDE SEXUAL ABUSE AND ASSAULT AWARENESS PROGRAM which requires the state to identify or develop a statewide K-12 sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention program for use by regional and local school boards. The second law is Public Act 14-11, AN ACT CONCERNING SEXUAL ASSAULT, STALKING AND INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE ON CAMPUS which was passed unanimously by the house and senate and is one of the most comprehensive campus sexual assault laws in the country. It includes mandatory sexual violence prevention education programs, and the utilization of bystander intervention strategies, for all students and staff at colleges and universities in our state.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The SAAM 2015 campaign is focused on campus sexual violence prevention. Help us create communities that prevent violence and build campuses that respond well. Everyone can play a role in creating safer campuses. This April, take action to prevent sexual violence.
For additional information, please contact Lindsey Kelley, Sexual Violence Prevention Program Coordinator, at Lindsey.Kelley@ct.gov.
If you or someone that you know needs immediate help please call the 24 hour free and confidential Statewide Hotline:
Or visit the CONNSACS website to find a rape crisis center near you.