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What is prevention?

Violence against women, in all its forms, is preventable.

Consequently, ‘prevention’ is one of the 4 ‘Ps’ along with protection, provision and participation which characterises the Scottish Government’s shared understanding and approach to tackling violence against women and is the focus of Violence Against Women Prevention Scotland.

The public health field uses a model, (“public health model”), which describes primary, secondary and tertiary prevention efforts or interventions.

Primary prevention means stopping violence before it occurs.

The primary prevention approach is central to the World Health Organization (WHO) World report on violence and health,  which, in its study of all forms of violence (including ‘intimate partner violence’), defines violence it as a public health issue and emphasises the importance of primary prevention, addressing root causes and taking a multi-agency response.  WHO also states that primary prevention policies and programmes help prevent violent behaviour through interventions designed to eliminate the underlying causes and risk factors and strengthen protective factors.

Primary prevention activities are those which take place before the violence occurs. The Prevention Institute defines primary prevention as “taking action to build resilience and to prevent problems before they occur." (Prevention Institute, 2004.)

Primary prevention seeks to prevent even the initial perpetration or victimisation – this means any first or new acts of violence, any first or new episodes of violence, any first or new victims of violence, or any first or new perpetrators of violence. This could take the form of public education leading to changes in social norms, policy changes, public service announcements, other media-based means of information dissemination, awareness raising on attitudes with young people in schools and so on.

Secondary prevention takes place immediately after the violent event occurs and includes steps which decrease the likelihood of the event reoccurring. Some examples are Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid and child protection services. It can include helping those affected to find safe housing, health services and so on.

Tertiary prevention takes a long-term approach by working with survivors over time and intervention programmes for perpetrators of abuse.  It addresses the long-term effects of violence, including health, productivity, economic, safety and well-being.


Our approach to Prevention

Violence Against Women Prevention Scotland is a network of professionals involved in a wide range of prevention projects.

Our focus is on primary prevention - preventing violence against women before it happens.  It means challenging deep-seated attitudes about gender inequalities and how men and women should be.  Often these are accepted as ‘just the way things are’.  For example, Zero Tolerance Charitable Trust found that:

  • One in two boys and one in three girls thought that there were some circumstances when it was okay to hit a woman or force her to have sex
  • Over one third of the boys thought that they might personally hit a woman or force a woman to have sex
  • Over half the young people knew someone who had been hit by their male partner and exactly half knew someone who had been sexually abused

Find out more about prevention.