Message development for sexual violence prevention advocates

How are advocates talking about sexual violence, and how do the media cover the issue? Is prevention a part of the conversation? Are solutions included? What messages motivate supporters to take action?

Berkeley Media Studies Group worked together with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and RALIANCE, a national partnership dedicated to ending sexual violence in one generation, to uncover the most effective ways to change the public conversation about sexual violence to include a prevention perspective. Over the course of this project, we developed messaging and framing guides for advocates that combine an analysis of current media coverage of sexual violence with guidance about which messages can withstand potential opposition and support prevention policies.

Using a collaborative process, we learned from leaders in the field of sexual violence prevention as we brought our experience and expertise to the issue at hand. Our strategy was driven by a few basic assumptions:

  1. Solutions drive messages, not the other way around. If people don't know what they want to say about sexual violence, it's often because they haven't figured out what to do.
  2. Social change isn't easy. While basic advocacy and community organizing principles apply, strategies have to be reinvented and reinvigorated in real time. 
  3. Those carrying out the strategy and speaking the messages have to be involved in the process of developing them.

BMSG will use the guides to train advocates how to use it to reframe messages about sexual violence and will help them effectively make the case for prevention to journalists and decision-makers.

Related resources

Where we're going and where we've been: Making the case for preventing sexual violence
Helping people understand that sexual violence can be prevented is a critical step toward a future where abuse and assault are rare. And to make the case for prevention, we need to go beyond the scope of the problem and articulate what to do about it. This messaging guide, developed in collaboration with RALIANCE, provides concrete guidance for advocates to build effective messages that highlight the need for prevention.

Moving toward prevention: A guide for reframing sexual violence
In this guide, developed by BMSG in partnership with NSVRC and with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we review best practices in framing sexual violence to inform the public about preventing sexual assault. We also highlight ways to communicate with the media, which play an important role in educating the public.

Media relations toolkit: Engaging the media to elevate sexual violence prevention
This toolkit, developed in partnership with NSVRC, includes a range of resources to help build relationships with journalists and inform news coverage about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.

Getting attention for prevention: Guidelines for effective communication about preventing sexual violence
The way we communicate about sexual violence can make a big difference in how our intended audience understands the problem and what to do about it. In this framing brief, as part of our collaboration with NSVRC, we explore the nuances of framing sexual violence and provide building blocks for constructing messages about prevention. We also discuss our findings in this webinar.

Issue 22: What's missing from the news on sexual violence? An analysis of coverage, 2011-2013
Understanding how sexual violence appears in the media is important for advocates working to prevent it because news coverage offers insights into how the public and policymakers view the issue and what to do about it. In this Issue, as part of our work with NSVRC, BMSG explores how journalists characterize sexual violence, whether prevention is discussed, and what steps advocates and reporters can take to improve coverage.

Video: Generation of change: Communicating about prevention today, tomorrow and beyond
Prior to the 2017 National Sexual Assault Conference in Dallas, Texas, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center hosted the 2017 RPE Leadership Training. Ignite Talks sparked important conversations about advancing prevention work. In this Ignite talk, BMSG's Pamela Mejia reflects on the journey she took from believing that sexual violence was just an unfortunate part of life to realizing that it can be prevented. Pamela shares her insight into what it takes to move other people's hearts and minds to support prevention and to communicate that sexual violence prevention is possible, achievable and happening.

BMSG's prior work on how violence has been framed in the media

Breaking news on child sexual abuse: Early coverage of Penn State

Issue 19: Case by case: News coverage of child sexual abuse


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