Bold Moves to End Sexual Violence: Three Tips for Talking About Prevention

Ms. is a proud media sponsor of the 2018 National Sexual Assault Conference, co-hosted by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. This year’s NSAC theme is “Bold Moves: Ending Sexual Violence in One Generation.” Leading up to the event, we’ll be posting pieces by presenters and major speakers highlighting their plans to make those moves right here on the Ms. blog. Click the banner image above or this link for more Bold Moves posts.

It’s tough to talk about sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse. Despite our best efforts, sometimes prevention gets lost in translation. 

Once they get engaged, it’s easy for people to understand the individual actions they can take to be a better bystander, take personal responsibility, participate in self-defense classes or have one-on-one conversations about actions and behaviors. But prevention must go beyond education and individual behavior change. We don’t live in a vacuum: We’re connected to groups, communities, organizations and institutions, and these structures have the power to create safe environments and help change the way our society views sexual violence and our responsibility to prevent it.

Efforts to prevent and stop sexual violence are underway in communities across the country—and while it’s not always clear that our small actions can result in big cultural changes, prevention is possible, and it’s happeningTalking about the progress we have made is also challenging—and that’s why RALIANCE teamed up with the Berkeley Media Studies Group to release a new report to guide individuals on how to talk about prevention

Here are four key highlights.

A sign posted at the Singapore Slutwalk in 2012. (Tamara Craiu / Creative Commons)

#1: Messages are never first.

The first step is knowing what you want to change, how to change it and why it needs to be changed. Your mission comes before your message—then you dig in to expressing it.

#2: Messages have to be flexible.

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to a strategic communications plan—from the specific strategy, to messenger and audience. All of this is also set against a political or cultural backdrop that changes.

#3: Your messenger is just as important as your message.

For a messenger to be persuasive, the audience has to identify with and trust them. (General rules for the road? Speak plainly and think about word choices and lingo. Focus on conduct, not character when talking about people who commit sexual abuse and assault.)

Ready for a test drive? Learn more about simple tips and tools in the messaging guide. Be a part of ending sexual violence in one generation! It’s on all of us to make prevention understandable.

Julie Patrick is the National Partners Liaison for RALIANCE and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Her work focuses on changing the conversation about sexual violence through efforts with the news media as well as advocates, allies and survivors. Prior to RALIANCE, Julie served for over a decade as the Senior Special Projects Coordinator with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, VA and managed the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse & Exploitation.

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