Primary Prevention

Although gender- and power-based violence has historically been framed as a “women’s issue,” we recognize that violence affects all of us - and in order to change our culture, we must take a holistic public health approach. 

At Safer we take a primary prevention response to violence. We believe that violence is not inevitable, and we have the ability (and responsibility!) to educate ourselves and our communities to prevent harm from occurring. For wrap-around holistic advocacy, we still provide resources in secondary and tertiary prevention, such as crisis counseling and advocacy.   

In viewing gender- and power-based violence as a public health issue, we view perpetration and prevention through the spheres of influence model. Having risk factors in your community don't mean you will perpetrate or that it is any more excusable; but they are factors that lead to complicity. These are factors such as strong gender norms, weak social sanctions for perpetrators, and lack of empathy. On the other hand, we have the ability to influence our society in a positive way - we can be empathetic, advocate for more policies to protect survivors, and feel responsibility for our community and peers.  

We know that this violence doesn't come out of the blue - it is rooted in a historical & cultural context of supremacy, power & control. The continuum of violence above shows how these attitudes & beliefs at a cultural level allow for violence to occur - we must be active bystanders at all levels for true prevention.

So... what do we do?

There are many ways to get involved in this movement, based on your emotional capacity, energy levels, privilege to leverage, etc. Everyone has a place in prevention - click here for some ideas to get you started.

The Red Zone - and the Double Red Zone

As with any fall quarter, that brings some risks along with it – we know that more than 50% of yearly campus sexual assaults take place within the first 6 weeks of fall quarter, and often more narrowly within the first few days of school. You might be familiar with the term “The Red Zone” - and for us on campus, that often revolves around Week of Welcome and the first couple of weeks. 

Fall of 2021 poses an even greater risk, with the perception that both 1st and 2nd year students may be experiencing their very first “real” college experience. Some organizers are calling this the “Double Red Zone” - the idea that the risk of campus sexual violence in the first few weeks of classes may be heightened due to the massive influx of students. 

There are two ways to look at this: 

  1. One way is to resign to the potential – and to see this violence as an inevitability; “there's nothing we can do about it.” 
  2. The other way is to see this as an opportunity for culture change. Think about it this way: approximately 50% of our campus is completely new. 50% of our campus are returning. We are in a unique position to shift the norms on this campus, leveraging the existing leadership to set NEW norms, NEW standards, and create NEW environments. 

If we are to think about this the second way, we have two tactics. First, targeting our incoming students, which are less accessible just given the nature of timing. Second, however, we can target our returning students – those in positions of relative power to incoming students – to question what physical spaces & social spaces they have dominance over. That’s what I’m aiming to do, and I would love your help in this. 

Safer has created a short guide, “Creating Safer Spaces: 4 Steps to Prevent a Double Red Zone at Cal Poly.” This packet is intended for upperclassmen and students in leadership positions – think Fraternity & Sorority Life, Athletics, Clubs, etc. Consider your place & privilege on campus, and examine what you can do to cultivate a culture of anti-violence and equity.

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