Primary Prevention and Crisis Responses

The relationship between primary and tertiary responses to violence against women is an issue that seems to crop up in community sector circles on a regular basis.  Ideally we all want the best for everyone. We want properly funded services that meet the needs of victim/survivors of violence and initiatives that work to change society to prevent the violence from happening in the first place.

I started my community sector career running a primary prevention of violence against women project in a women’s health organisation. We trained young people in their early twenties to go into schools and deliver material on relationship violence and sexual assault. A number of years later I was contracted to replicate the program for a sexual assault service in a different region.

At the women’s health service I ran one of a number of health promotion projects. Other workers within the organisation understood the nature of my work and were intimately acquainted with what I was doing. The service was funded to do health promotion so the project was seen as core business and some discretionary money was available to supplement project activities. We had a good relationship with the regional crisis services – DV and SA – but no access to detailed local knowledge on a weekly basis. The conversations around the water cooler helped me run the project but didn’t tend to contribute to my knowledge of violence.

At the sexual assault service my work was unique, although the workplace was incredibly supportive, not everyone got the details of what I was working with. The fact that there was primary prevention work happening within the agency made a big difference to the counsellor/advocates. A number of my colleagues commented that they felt better about ‘picking up the pieces’ after sexual assault because they knew their agency was doing something to stop it from happening in the first place. The project also improved the service’s relationship with schools in the region, giving rise to an increase in younger service users and secondary consults from welfare coordinators. I was also exposed to current, locally relevant information about sexual assault and could tailor programs in line with emerging trends. However the core business of the agency was providing a service to victim/survivors of sexual assault. When funding for the project ran dry, it had to be dropped. When primary prevention projects are made to compete with tertiary responses then tertiary will always win and rightly so.

Whether or not the project deliverer is involved in providing a crisis response it is crucial that primary prevention or respectful relationships projects generate links between schools and local service providers. Any discussion of violence or respectful relationships is bound to lead to disclosures either during or after the intervention so school staff need to feel confident about making referrals.

Preventing violence against women before it occurs is a mammoth task. It’s going to take all of us, working in partnership to create the change that’s needed. That being said, how do we understand the intersections between primary prevention, secondary intervention and tertiary responses to violence against women?

Acknowledgement of country

DVRCV and the PiP network acknowledge Aboriginal people as the traditional owners of the lands and waters throughout Australia.

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