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American perceptions of sexual violence

During the recent PreventConnect web conferences Changing the Public Perceptions about Violence Against Women, National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Director Karen Baker reviewed the new report American Perceptions of Sexual Violence: A FrameWorks Research Report.

After reading the report, preparing for these web conferences and discussing the findings with hundreds of sexual and domestic violence prevention advocates, I have several observations. First, the work conducted over that last 30 years of people in the sexual and domestric violence movements have made a difference.  The general public knows that rape takes place, that  it is usually not a stranger who rapes, and know not to say that it is the victim’s fault for being abused.

However, my second observation is our messages which may seem completely clear to those of us in the field, often do not have the desired effect.  People know not to say it is the victim’s fault, but then they still think just if she did not _______ (fill in the blank with “wear those clothes, be with those people, etc.). As Jenny Dills tweeted, “Okay, but if we’re saying these msgs for 30 years & public still victim blames, is it time to change message?”

Finally, the recommendations from this study reinforce my commitment to finding community based solutions.  We have to frame the issues of sexual and domestic violence as community issues and not get too sidetracked with individual stories.

I look forward to the next parts of this work that the NSVRC and Frameworks will take to develop messages that can advance our efforts to prevent sexual violence.

Check out the full report here and listen to a recording of the web conference.

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