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Melissa Grady

How Do We Stop Sexual Violence?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined three levels of action: primary/universal intervention pro- grams, secondary interventions targeting those who are at risk, and tertiary interventions targeting those who have already committed crimes. Melissa Grady says, “In order to prevent sexual violence, as a society we need to design and implement programs that address all three of these levels.”

Why should we care about individuals who commit sexual offenses?

“They could be our family members, friends, or at a minimum are members of our society. Research continues to show that ostracizing them increases their risk for committing additional crimes. Viewing them as humans may reduce the risk once they have returned back to society. We need to know why they commit these crimes and how to intervene so they’ll never do it again. We need to learn about them and from them in order to gain the knowledge necessary to prevent any additional crimes.”

Is it true that “hurt” people hurt people?

“Research shows that offenders have experienced much higher rates of trauma compared to other groups, including the general population. What is unclear is why some people who experience trauma go on to commit sexual crimes, when the majority of those who have experienced trauma do not. If trauma plays a critical role in their development and subsequent offending behaviors, then addressing this adversity must be part of rehabilitation. We need more research to learn how trauma plays a role and the ways adverse childhood experiences impact individuals’ trajectories. Then we can create interventions that help target the impact of trauma as a form of sexual violence prevention.”

Melissa Grady is an associate professor of social work at the National Catholic School of Social Service. She received a $50,000 grant for her research “Victim to Victimizer” from Raliance Grant Program. She examines sexual violence prevention, using a trauma-informed understanding of adverse childhood experiences.