Research to Help Our Communities:
Primary Prevention of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault
By Loeen Irons and Dr. Beth Lanning
While the country pours millions of dollars and hours of education into prevention messages - "Keep your doors and windows locked." "Always park in well-lit areas." - sexual assault and abuse continues to occur.
Community Health faculty Beth Lanning and Loeen Irons received a grant from the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children to develop primary prevention programming aimed at preventing assaults and eliminating circumstances that create abusers.
Using guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control, Baylor researchers conducted group interviews in Bosque, Falls, Freestone, Hill, Limestone and McLennan counties. Graduate students Brittany Devereaux and Emily Spangler rendered transcripts from each group.
When asked why sexual abuse/assault occurs in one's county, participants revealed a number of issues in their responses:
- "Because within that culture abuse of women is tolerated."
- "Because children in our county do not understand when
to say no."
- "Because predators in our county find ways to be involved in unsupervised child care."
Compiled data fuels two initiatives. One targets young men in fraternities and in athletics, emphasizing that men are key to prevention. The second initiative revisits two area counties to talk about cultural norms which influence and model behaviors within communities. Sometimes, cultural norms perpetuate sexual assault/abuse by reinforcing community member beliefs about traditional gender roles, power, violence or privacy. Example: The cultural norm "Boys will be boys" frequently is used to excuse abusive behavior.
The project's goal is to equip the Advocacy Center with data and programs to enhance primary prevention strategies.
Loeen Irons, second from left, and Beth Lanning, far right, visit with Advocacy Center staff