Back to top

Prevention Program Elements

The Department has determined that the sexual assault prevention programs that have demonstrated the greatest promise in reducing sexual assaults integrate a variety of practices in a multifaceted campaign. Single-faceted efforts have not shown long term success in reducing sexual assault, such as conducting training only, or only having deterrence messaging. A comprehensive approach is required. DoD SAPRO researched the elements that are found in promising programs and developed the following recommended list of elements to consider for inclusion in sexual assault prevention programs:

Definitions for each of these program elements are provided below (bookmarked for easy access) and in the 2014-2016 Sexual Assault Prevention Strategy.

Leadership Involvement at all Levels

Leaders at all levels are the center of gravity for the prevention of sexual assault. Leaders are responsible for the climate of their unit and the welfare of their subordinates. The leader also assembles the resources with the requisite skills and expertise for a successful SAPR program. If the leader is successful in establishing a climate of safety and trust, members may feel more comfortable coming forward with issues and reports of incidents. Examples include:

  • Providing mentorship, setting the example of appropriate behavior for others to model, and quickly correcting those who engage in sexually harassing or sexist behaviors;
  • Continually focus on sustaining a healthy command climate and enforcing of standards;
  • Providing vision and guidance for the execution of the sexual assault prevention program;
  • Delivering appropriate sexual assault prevention and response messages to their unit;
  • Setting expectations regarding accountability for behavior and offenses; and
  • Ensuring new members have a sponsor in the unit.
Peer to Peer Mentorship (Informal Leaders)

Promoting healthy relationships between peers, partners, family, and friends has shown promise to enhance a healthy command climate and prevent sexual assault. Peer mentors can integrate relevant values, attitudes, and behaviors related to sexual assault prevention reinforcing our core military values and professional standards. Examples of relevant topics peers can promote include:

  • Victim empathy;
  • Bystander intervention against any unacceptable behavior;
  • Healthy relationships;
  • Moderate, responsible alcohol use;
  • and Obtaining consent for sexual activity.
Education and Training

Education and training efforts designed to improve knowledge, impart a skill, and/or influence attitudes and behaviors of a target population are an important part of a prevention program. Courses should teach bystander intervention, victim empathy, consent, acceptable behavior, and healthy relationships. The curriculum should be evidence-based, adapted to the environment, and responsive to the gender, culture, beliefs, and diverse needs of the targeted audiences. Education and training must be properly designed following adult learning principles and be delivered by well-trained professionals, or it risks being ineffective or having a negative impact. The following training practices were included in promising sexual assault prevention education and training programs:

  • Multiple lessons/sessions to reinforce key messages and provide opportunities to practice new skills;
  • Peer educators to deliver training program;
  • Interactive format (minimize lecture, focus on discussion, role-play, and exercises);
  • Real life scenarios (discuss scenarios and the appropriate responses);
  • and Culture-specific content and messages (allow each installation, and potentially each command, to customize the training content to their specific culture and participant levels).

Training Core Competencies and Learning Objectives

The military Services collaborated in the development of training in the following areas:

These core competencies and learning objectives fulfill the requirement provided in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Fiscal Year 2012, Sections 584 and 585.


When all personnel are held appropriately accountable for their behavior, the unit climate of trust and safety is enhanced and personnel may feel safer coming forward with issues or incident reports. At the same time, senior commanders must hold subordinate commanders appropriately accountable for supporting and maintaining a unit command climate that promotes respect, tolerance, and diversity, and not one that tolerates sexual harassment, discrimination or sexual assault. Examples of practices that promote accountability include:

  • Publicizing the punishments for misconduct or criminal offenses consistent with law and Department of Defense regulations;
  • Incorporating SAPR monitoring into readiness assessments (e.g., quarterly training briefings, operational readiness assessments, inspections) to ensure program implementation and compliance;
  • Senior leadership engaging with subordinate commands to review results and progress with command climate assessments;
  • and Ensuring all allegations of sexual assault are referred to Military Criminal Investigative Organizations (MCIOs).
Organizational Support (Resources)

The Department of Defense must institutionalize sexual assault prevention programs. The necessary resources include:

  • Manpower;
  • Budget;
  • Tools and systems;
  • Policies;
  • Education and training;
  • Standard operating procedures; and
  • Continuous evaluation and improvement.
Community Involvement

Leaders and Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) collaborate with community resources to extend and enhance the unit climate for personnel throughout the local community, both on and off-base to the extent authorized by law and Department of Defense regulations. This includes integrating prevention efforts with a variety of resources, including:

  • Advocacy groups;
  • Healthcare services providers;
  • Family and social support service providers;
  • and Researchers, university faculty, epidemiologists, and subject matter experts grounded in scientific data.

A variety of tactics have been shown to help deter a wide range of negative behaviors. Commanders and their command teams, to include staff judge advocates, should collaborate with military and civilian law enforcement, Safety and Force Protection Officers, to determine the optimum mix of deterrence measures for their environment. Examples of potential tactics to deter criminal activity include:

  • To the extent permissible by law and policy, publicizing court-martial results;
  • Articulating lifetime costs of poor decisions;
  • Surveillance measures (e.g., video cameras, patrols, barracks monitors); and
  • Physical security enhancements.

Messages promoting appropriate values, attitudes, and behaviors have shown great promise in achieving a healthy command climate and preventing sexual assaults. Commanders and command teams must visibly support and reinforce the standards. Messages must be appropriately tailored for the target audience(s). Commanders, SARCs, Public Affairs Officers, MCIOs, and Staff Judge Advocates should collaborate on how to discuss sexual assault prevention efforts and avoid unlawful command influence. Collaboration is encouraged with local experts and advocacy groups for ideas on what works in their community consistent with law and Department of Defense regulations. It is important to consider how to best use social media because of its prominence in reaching each audience.

Incentives to Promote Prevention

Recognition by leaders for establishing effective prevention programs or practices can incentivize units to be innovative and develop effective prevention programs and tactics. Examples of how incentives can be used include:

  • Individuals recognized by leaders for safely intervening in incidents. Commanders must consider the risks and impacts when employing this tactic to determine the best means of delivery (e.g., public or private acknowledging);
  • Volunteers awarded for conducting bystander intervention training; and
  • Units awarded for effective, innovative prevention programs, practices, or policies.

Annual Prevention Excellence in Prevention Award

Each year, DoD SAPRO sponsors recognition of an individual (military or civilian), group, or unit from each Military Service, component, or organization, for their work in promoting excellence in prevention of sexual assault.

Harm Reduction

Tactics that seek to reduce the risks of sexual assault show promise to help promote a healthy command climate. Commanders must review command climate surveys and discuss any threats to the welfare of the unit and individual members with their command team, SARC, and Safety Officer to identify potential tactics to reduce risks. These efforts can include a wide variety of risk mitigation (safety) programs and tactics that addresses both potential victims and perpetrators, including:

  • Alcohol policies (e.g., alcohol storage in barracks, pricing, outlet density);
  • Collaboration with management of establishments Service members are likely to visit on and off base;
  • Courses that instruct and empower members through awareness, violence intervention, and self-defense techniques;
  • Unit sponsorship for new members; and
  • Ongoing command monitoring of individuals who are demonstrating problem behaviors (e.g., documented history of sexual violence, sexual harassment, alcohol or drug abuse, hazing).