Fast Facts About Prevention and Intervention

Fact 1: ATSA's goal is the prevention of sexual abuse.

ATSA seeks to stop the perpetration of unhealthy, harmful, dangerous, and illegal sexually oriented behaviors and actions that victimize others. It does this by promoting sound research, effective practice, informed policy, and comprehensive prevention strategies.

Fact 2: The goal of prevention is to stop sexual abuse before it can begin.

The goal of prevention is to identify the factors that contribute to – and inhibit – sexual abuse, and use that information to stop sexual abuse before it can begin. These factors are often referred to as “risk” and “protective” factors for perpetration. Effective prevention programs reduce or eliminate the identified risk factors that lead to sexual abuse, and enhance and strengthen protective factors that prevent abuse.

Fact 3: An effective prevention program recognizes the complex interplay of individual, relational, social, political, cultural, and environmental factors that influence sexual violence.

A comprehensive prevention program uses an ecological model that frames a comprehensive public health approach. Such an approach not only addresses an individual’s risk and protective factors, but also addresses the norms, beliefs, physical environments, and social and economic systems that create the conditions that allow and enable the perpetration of sexual violence. By understanding the risk and protective factors within all of these areas, we can more effectively design multi-dimensional prevention programs that target individuals, families, communities, and other systems in which sexual violence is perpetrated, promoted and/or inhibited. 

Fact 4: There are different levels of intervention that can be employed to prevent sexual violence.

Primary prevention approaches are employed before any sexual violence has occurred, to prevent initial perpetration and victimization. Primary prevention includes building an environment that encourages physical and emotional well-being and healthy choices. This could include public dissemination of information and resources. Primary prevention can be directed toward either "universal" or "selected" audiences. Universal strategies are aimed at everyone in the population of interest, independent of risk. Selected strategies are directed toward those in the population at increased risk for sexual violence perpetration or victimization.  

Secondary prevention is an immediate response after sexual violence has been perpetrated that deals with the short-term consequences of violence. It attempts to reduce the harm to the victims in the immediate aftermath of the violence (e.g., separating the victim and the perpetrator, and providing immediate crisis counseling for the victim), and to locate, contain, and address the perpetrators. Secondary prevention is directed toward “Indicated” audiences, reflecting strategies aimed at individuals who have perpetrated sexual violence or who have been victimized. 

Tertiary prevention is a long-term response after sexual violence perpetration. Tertiary prevention addresses the lasting consequences of victimization (e.g., by providing ongoing counseling for victims) and the provision of specialized sex offender treatment and management for the perpetrators of sexual violence to minimize the possibility of re-offense. Tertiary prevention also includes intervention in family violence to prevent recurrence of the situations and behaviors that cause harm. Tertiary prevention is directed toward “Indicated” audiences, reflecting strategies aimed at individuals who have perpetrated sexual violence or those who have been victimized.

Fact 5: Because sexual abuse is a widespread social issue, it requires a multi-faceted prevention approach. 

Research – ATSA supports the use of research to guide prevention and early intervention practices and to serve as a catalyst for positive, evidence-based change.

Policies and organizational practices – ATSA encourages the development and implementation of local, state, and national policies and organizational practices to advance primary prevention and strengthen comprehensive prevention measures. This includes working within organizations to develop internal policies that promote practices that discourage sexual violence in all its forms, enforcing a lack of tolerance for the behaviors that promote sexual violence, and ensuring that policies that respond to situations of sexual violence are in place within all organizations.

Funding – ATSA advocates for increasing the dollars invested in prevention and positive development in proportion to the harm done and the real costs of sexual violence. 

Advocacy for violence-free media – ATSA supports a closer examination of the negative influence of sexual violence in various forms of media (e.g., TV, movies, video games, advertising), as a risk factor in the development of sexual perpetration. We encourage advocating for violence-free media, in collaboration with other organizations, to promote a healthy and safer society.

Public awareness – ATSA seeks to increase public awareness of sexual violence and educate key constituencies about healthy sexuality as well as sexual violence, its prevalence, and effective ways to prevent and manage sexually abusive behaviors. 

Collaborative practices – ATSA promotes multidisciplinary collaborations to foster successful prevention and positive development initiatives.



The following citations reflect research, publications, and presentations by current ATSA members.

2018 ATSA Conference