What is Primary Prevention?

Address the Root Causes of Violence

Primary Prevention

In order to truly end domestic violence, we need to change the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate abuse, build connection within our communities, and improve quality of life for all people.

To learn more about primary prevention strategies, check out the RICADV’s resource, Our Future Depends on Preventing Domestic Violence.

Click here to access a PDF.

To request a hard copy, please contact the RICADV at 401-467-9940 or ricadv@ricadv.org.

Types of Prevention


  • Any action, strategy or policy that works to stop domestic violence from occurring in the first place.
  • Primary prevention seeks to reduce the overall likelihood that anyone will become a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence by creating conditions that make violence less likely to occur.


  • Secondary prevention is intervening and responding to violence that has already occurred in order to stop violence from happening again.
  • Secondary prevention activities can include shelter, counseling, safety planning, and protective orders.


  • Tertiary prevention focuses on ongoing support to victims and ongoing accountability for abusers.
  • Tertiary prevention activities address the long-term consequences of domestic violence. They can include support groups and other resources for survivors to help them heal so that they do not experience abuse again. They can also include batterers intervention programs for abusers to prevent them from continuing to perpetrate violence in the future.

The Social-Ecological Model

To stop a problem like domestic violence before it begins, we must understand the factors that influence the problem.

The Social-Ecological Model provides a framework for understanding the factors that promote or prevent domestic violence and how we should approach the primary prevention of this issue.

This model considers the complex ways that individual, relationship, community, and societal factors intersect, helping us address the factors that either put people at risk of or prevent people from experiencing or perpetrating relationship violence.

Risk & Protective Factors

We can use our knowledge of the risk and protective factors that exist across levels of the social-ecological model to better address the issue of domestic violence from a primary prevention perspective.

For example, because we know that youth is a risk factor – a characteristic that can make it more likely for someone to become a victim or perpetrator of relationship violence – we can focus on educating and skill-building with youth about healthy relationships.

Because we know that economic independence is a protective factor – a characteristic that can make it less likely for someone to become a victim or perpetrator of relationship violence – we can focus on increasing financial literacy in our communities.

Social Change

The primary prevention of domestic violence aims to create social change. Through various initiatives, we are working to cultivate individuals and communities that do not tolerate violence and that support healthy relationships and gender equality.

Imparting knowledge and raising awareness is not enough to create social change. In order to achieve this peaceful vision for the future, we must work to shift deeply ingrained attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that contribute to the problem of domestic violence. To do so takes time, practice and multiple opportunities for skill-building and communicating with others during the learning process.

A public health approach to prevention utilizes methods from a range of fields and delivers various positive messages over time through leaders and role models, both individuals and organizations. This model has successfully addressed other prevention issues, including seatbelts, car seats, helmets, and smoking, and in turn has created safer, healthier communities. In applying a public health approach to domestic violence, we seek to identify the root causes of behaviors, the conditions in our communities that condone or promote domestic violence and the strategies that might change those conditions.

A public health model and the RICADV’s approach to prevention also acknowledges the ways that different oppressions, such as racism, sexism, and classism, intersect with domestic violence. Understanding and challenging where power and resources exist is critical if we are to build a community that values each person and does not tolerate any form of violence.

Helpline Available 24/7

The confidential statewide Helpline can be reached by calling 1-800-494-8100 or using the online chat here. The Helpline is for all victims of violent crime, including domestic and dating abuse, and those looking for more information to help a victim of violence.

Scroll to Top