Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MN Primary Prevention Of Sexual Violence: Part 3

In part 1, I gave an overview of the all-day meeting sponsored by Minnesota's Sexual Violence Prevention Program (on Aug. 10 in New Brighton, MN) along with the ideas and insights that overview sparked. In part 2, I discussed the role of framing in primary prevention.

Those first 2 parts provide context and foundation for the primary prevention of sexual violence. Now onto the systems which bridge the gap between the goal of prevention and the reduction of sexual violence perpetration.

Here are the 3 Minnesota teams again:
  • Messaging:
    develops sexual violence prevention messages and healthy sexuality messages for selected audiences and throughout the state

  • Policy and Legislation:
    recommends legislation and organizational policies and practices to effect change

  • Data and Research:
    identifies data sources, compiles and organizes relevant research, evaluates prevention programs, and shares data and research broadly
In the presentation from the leaders of the messaging team, Dave Matthews led off with a discussion of what the time has done so far which included developing a work plan and identifying the frame to be used in the primary prevention of sexual violence. Some of the challenges are team turnover, lack of expertise (in the group and in general) and lack of funding. There is much to be excited about in this area.

Three important concepts in messaging are: frames (already covered in last post), elephants and funnels.

Elephants are what you don't want the message receivers to focus on. Too often messages begin by highlighting these elephants (don't do this) before moving on to the intended message (do this). The intended message can be lost as people think about those elephants. Those who weren't aware of these elephants can be left with the elephant as the only thing they remember.

Elephants in primary sexual violence prevention include that rape is a consequence of the victim's actions and/or choices; and the belief that we can't do anything to reduce the rate of perpetration. While these shouldn't be focused on in the messages we need to know what these are so that we don't evoke them and instead overcome these elephants.

A resource on this concept is the book Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff.

Donna McDonald talked about a previous social marketing campaign called You're the One Who Can Make the Peace. This was a 5-year anti-violence campaign. Amy Hartman talked about the smoking prevention messaging campaign called Target Market. This was a smoking prevention campaign funded by tobacco lawsuit settlement money which focused on teen empowerment by showing teens how they were being targeted by tobacco companies.

Neither of these campaigns will be templates for the primary prevention of sexual violence messaging but those campaigns can help us understand how to be more effective in our messaging.

Related to the effectiveness of messaging, the need for funnels was highlighted by a man who asked for water to quench his thirst. The first response came from another person who flicked water at him from a large container. When that wasn't enough a small amount of water was tossed from the container toward his mouth. Not surprisingly very little of that water ended up where is was intended. When he asked for more all the water in the container was dumped over his head. Each time he was getting what he asked for, but it wasn't doing much good. Finally a funnel was used to pour water from a large container into a cup so that all of the water being sent out could serve its purpose.

Like water, good messages can be wasted if they aren't delivered in a way which meets the need.
The funnel concept and graphic template used at the meeting comes from the CDC document Adding Power To Our Voices (pdf). This funnel has 5 levels which are:
  • Concept name

  • Broad message associating injury prevention with the concept frame

  • Specific injury issue and social math

  • Recommendations and research

  • Call to action
The widest part of the funnel for sexual violence primary prevention which has been proposed is: We want a community where people of all ages can live to their full potential. In a completed funnel diagram given out at the meeting the call to action provided a free 24-hour confidential hotline for Minnesota men called the men's line. This line includes providing resources for men who are seeking help or alternatives to violence.

There can be multiple calls to actions directed at multiple audiences. These funnels can help develop the specific messages which are created so that they can be presented effectively and so that when results are measured you know what actions you want to measure to determine your progress.

When putting all the pieces and tools together we need to remember that how we say things matters in the results we get. Effective communicating needs to include storytelling. When facts don't fit the frame someone has in their head the facts will be rejected.

We know what we don't want (don't rape, don't abuse) so the messages need to focus on what actions we do want different audiences to take. An example from my overview of this day was a letter sent to county commissioners asking them to create an action plan.

Messages are not limited to PSAs. They can be events. They can be student contests. They can be letters to specific people. Getting diverse groups of people involved in primary prevention will help in this messaging process. The most effective message for one audience might fall flat with other audiences. Same goes for the message delivery plan. If the intended audience never sees the message even the best message will be a failure with that audience.

Part 4 will cover the work of the policy and prevention team.


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