What impact have you had?
Project ENVISION, has reached thousands of New Yorkers, and thousands of people across the nation with the message that sexual violence is preventable. We have directly engaged over 1,000 New Yorkers in dialogue about what causes sexual violence and what they think can be done to prevent it in their communities. Rigorous data collection in each pilot community led to the production of research reports that highlight the scope of sexual violence in the three pilot communities and what community members articulated as their vision of prevention. These research reports were shared with NYC residents via community events, a press conference at City Hall, and through our website. The project has led to the development of three coalitions in each pilot community, comprised of 15-20 people, whom are representatives of community-based organizations and community members. All coalition members have received training on creating and maintaining healthy coalitions, and on how to design primary prevention programs. Each coalition completed a project proposal for a two-year intervention that will target individuals, families, community groups and institutions. Each coalition is led by a two-person community member team. The Alliance has provided on-going leadership training and development and mentorship to these community members. Project ENVISION has been highlighted by the CDC and recognized by professionals in the field as a promising, innovative and groundbreaking program. The Alliance has presented Project ENVISION at several professional conferences and has provided technical assistance to others in the field who want to model this initiative.
Project ENVISION has been designed based on data, uses a capacity building approach, and incorporates monitoring and evaluation into every phase. The project’s approach is based on a review of existing programs and methods in the sexual violence and prevention fields. After identifying community mobilization as the most promising and relevant method for our context, we began engaging community members in dialogue about sexual violence and building their capacity to organize their community around this issue and inspire them to take action. Lastly, successful programs always collect data during the project—to assess how it is being implemented, to document challenges and successes, to make changes to the project, and to evaluate if the program is achieving its objectives. The major challenge that coule prevent this project from being a success is the stigma and silence that surrounds sexual violence and society’s tolerance of it. There is a lot of work to be done.
By the end of our five-year project we expect to see the following results in the pilot communities: 1) an increase in the knowledge, skills and leadership of community members to design and implement sexual violence prevention efforts; 2) an increase in community dialogue about sexual violence and how it intersects with other forms of oppression; 3)an increase in commitment from policy makers to prevent sexual violence; 4) increase in private and public resources for sexual violence prevention; 5) a reduction in the social norms that contribute to and promotes sexual violence; and 6) an emergence of pro-social norms that promote healthy, equitable and violence-free communities. Other longer-term results that we expect is that our project will be replicated in other communities in NYC and that we will ultimately see reduction of sexual violence.
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.
Project ENVISION is entering a critical phase. Over the past two years we have selected pilot communities for intervention, we have conducted needs assessments in each of these communities, and we have formed coalitions of community members and community-based organizations to lead mobilization efforts. Each coalition is now in the process of using the data from the needs assessments to design a community-specific prevention program and will complete that by June 2010. From July 2010-June 2011, each coalition in each community will implement the intervention they designed. This will require significant human and financial resources, commitment from community members, and support from policymakers and legislators. Implementation will continue from July 2011-June 2012. From 2012-2013, the project will be evaluated. We are currently looking for resources to secure an evaluation partner, so that we can begin to design our impact evalaution.
What would prevent your project from being a success?
One important issue that could prevent our project from being a success is sustaining involvement and commitment from community members over time. Addressing an issue such as sexual violence requires a tremendous amount of emotional and mental energy. People who are in this field often experience vicarious trauma or burn-out. Thus, it can be challenging to sustain commitment from individuals to this movement. Similarly, it can be hard to engage people in an effort that is focused on prevention of sexual violence. We have found that it is difficult for people to imagine a world without sexual violence. And it is even more challenging for them to conceptualize the steps that can actually make that vision a reality. Many people need, want and expect to see change happen right away, but ending sexual violence is a long-term, slow process that requires social change. In addition, many people do not believe that sexual violence is preventable. We have become conditioned our society to accept that this is something that will persist. Understandably, the scope of the work often seems insurmountable and daunting. A second threat to our project being a success is a lack of funding. Despite the fact that 1 out of every 4 women will be a victim of sexual violence at some point in her life, funding for sexual violence remains insufficient. And funding for prevention, particularly in the United States, is dismal. Anti-sexual violence work has historically been funded by government agencies focused on responding to the criminal justice and health aspects of sexual violence. Funding for prevention of sexual violence is new to the United States and grass-roots mobilizing efforts are often over-looked.