The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) has a story worth telling about the power of collaboration and preventing sexual abuse. It started in 1980 when rape crisis centers from across California joined forces to create a unified voice of advocacy for survivors – the result was CALCASA, a true coalition and voice for prevention. With a primary focus on the prevention of sexual abuse, CALCASA has three and a half decades of commitment to ending sexual violence through a multifaceted approach of prevention, intervention, education, research, advocacy and public policy. While so many rape crisis centers around the US struggle in isolation, CALCASA is an example of what can happen when the right people get together to create positive change.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss sexual abuse prevention with David Lee, M.P.H. – CALCASA’s Director of Prevention Services and a member of ATSA. With over thirty years working within the field, David definitely understands the history, obstacles and successes within the field of sexual abuse prevention. Although his professional prevention work began in 1982, his interest in prevention started in his youth due to his mother’s involvement in the early battered women’s movement. He described a direct impact from his mother’s work as she imparted the clear message to her sons that violence against women was an important topic and that we all needed to be part of the solution – a message and belief David has incorporated within his life and shares with others through his work with CALCASA. David leads CALCASA’s team in providing training and technical assistance on sexual abuse prevention to rape crisis centers throughout California, while also extending CALCASA’s influence at the national level through PreventConnect, the nation’s leading online community to advance primary prevention of sexual and domestic violence (Kaufman, 2010).
PreventConnect is truly a unique resource provided by CALCASA as it is nationally focused and an example of the strength of multi-disciplinary collaboration. Supported by the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PreventConnect is an online community of people who are committed to the prevention of sexual and domestic violence, and is based on the ideology that we can all learn and share together to facilitate prevention. PreventConnect provides guidance, support, and tools to those who provide direct services within the field of sexual abuse prevention in order to increase the skills of individuals undertaking all levels of prevention work (Smallbone, 2008). Utilizing various forms of online media to connect people and ideas, PreventConnect explores issues and highlights efforts to:
· Stop sexual assault and relationship violence before it starts,
· Engage communities in preventing sexual assault and relationship violence, and
· Build upon the strengths of the rape crisis and domestic violence movements, public health and other prevention efforts to create social change.
Working within the field of sexual abuse prevention can be difficult and isolating at times – PreventConnect provides a distinct opportunity for national collaboration, support, and guidance, all things that can benefit and strengthen the many ways in which we work towards prevention of sexual abuse. PreventConnect activities include the Power in Prevention web conference series that highlights efforts to prevent child sexual abuse, as well as web conferences, blogs, wiki, and podcasts which share the voices of those doing prevention and provide resources and research, as well as experiences, about prevention work. Additionally, as primary prevention research is in its infancy, PreventConnect is a place to collectively discuss and learn about new strategies within a multi-disciplinary arena (CDC, 2004). Click here for information about the PreventConnect email group.
Sexual abuse is a complex public health issue that impacts us all – individuals, communities, institutions and society as a whole (ATSA, 2014). CALCASA and PreventConnect are strong examples of an organization dedicated to addressing sexual abuse as a public health issue, thus directing our efforts on prevention of sexual violence before it is perpetrated. As a leading example of collaboration and innovation, we can all learn from the multidisciplinary opportunities CALCASA and PreventConnect provide.
For more information about the prevention of sexual abuse, please see:
· Sexual Violence Prevention – authored by David Lee, Lydia Guy, Brad Perry, Chad Sniffen, & Stacy Mixson
· ATSA Prevention Committee – www.atsa.com/prevention-education
· Transforming Communities to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: A Primary Prevention Approach (Prevention Institute, 2009)
· Sexual Violence Prevention: Beginning the Dialogue (CDC, 2004)
Katie Gotch, MA
ATSA Fact Sheet. Retrieved August 2014. http://www.atsa.com/sexual-violence-prevention-fact-sheet
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual violence prevention: beginning the dialogue.
Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2004.
Kaufman, K. (2010). The prevention of sexual violence: A practitioner’s sourcebook. Holyoke, MA: NEARI Press.
Smallbone, S., Marshall, W. L., & Wortley, R. (2008). Preventing child sexual abuse: Evidence, policy and practice. Cullompton, Devon, UK: Willan Publishing.