Rape Prevention and Education Program
To prevent first-time victimization and perpetration of sexual violence, rather than helping people who have already been victimized.
Program Description and Key Functions
This is an “upstream” shift from most of the current efforts in California that have been dedicated to helping victims after the damage is already done. Sexual violence prevention strategies are based on research showing they are effective and that rape can be prevented. An RPE Epidemiologist ensures that the science base of the program will be strong by researching the nature of sexual assault and ensuring strong evaluation of both local and statewide efforts.
The Safe and Active Communities (SAC) Branch, Violence Prevention Unit, administers the Rape Prevention and Education (RPE) Program, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The RPE Program approaches sexual violence from a public health perspective in which norms and community play a role beyond the traditional role played by police and the courts. Like California’s smoking campaign that has made smoking unacceptable, it aims to change the norms that make sexual violence tolerable.
The RPE program builds the capacity of California’s 65 local rape crisis centers to implement true primary prevention strategies to change communities, families, and young people. It also sponsors a statewide social marketing campaign, administered by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), called the MyStrength Campaign. This social norms campaign focuses on young men ages 14 to 18, supporting and encouraging them to speak out and join the movement against sexual violence. It uses posters, billboards, movie stills, radio ads, and a website (http://www.mystrength.org) in English and Spanish to get the message across, and supports MyStrength Clubs in a dozen California high schools.
California’s statewide survey and victim service data suggest that thousands of women are forced into unwanted sex each year. Over a million California women have suffered one or more sexual assaults, and most before age 18. All women are at some risk of sexual assault, and the RPE Program targets males and females of all ages, races, and circumstances.
The RPE Program works hand-in-hand with CALCASA and other state agencies and statewide organizations, including the California Attorney General’s Office and the California Commission on the Status of Women. Local partners include rape crisis centers and health departments.
California’s MyStrength Campaign moves young men from the passive role of bystander to the active role of social change agent to prevent rape and other forms of men’s violence. Organized around the theme “my strength is not for hurting”, the campaign emphasizes that men can be strong without using coercion, intimidation, force, or violence in their relationships. It is based on research showing that young men have the capacity and desire to act to end sexual violence. It helps young men to be recast as potential allies, rather than potential perpetrators.
Our RPE program epidemiologist has conducted an evaluation of MyStrength Clubs in high schools, with comparisons from high schools with no clubs. Results show that the MyStrength Campaign succeeded in reaching its intended audience in the six sites surveyed. Students were more likely to be familiar with the campaign and its message, tended to have more respectful attitudes, and reported observing fewer disrespectful behaviors on campus. CDC sees the great potential of the MyStrength campaign and has also launched an evaluation.
For additional information, please contact Nancy Bagnato, MPH, Coordinator, Violence Prevention Unit (VPU), at firstname.lastname@example.org.