Apr 27, 2020 4 min read By Jenny Dills, MPH
The sexual assault survivors that came through the door of the Mizzou Women’s Center weren’t strangers to me. They were my college friends and classmates.
As an undergraduate volunteer I could give them hotline numbers, help set up counseling appointments, and advocate for them with the school. But I couldn’t give them what they needed: a time machine to go back to stop it from happening to keep them and their friends safe.
These experiences showed me that the problem of sexual violence is urgent — and propelled me into a career in violence prevention. Here’s what I’ve learned: Sexual violence is preventable. That’s not my opinion. It’s what the science tells us.
In graduate school, I heard David Lee of the California Coalition Against Sexual Violence speak about sexual assault prevention. He talked about how to grow healthy relationships, and how to change behavior through social marketing. A lightbulb went off in my head: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY — WE CAN PREVENT THIS. From that point, I committed to studying how to prevent violence.
I now specialize in violence prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here we understand sexual violence not as an inevitable crime, but as an urgent public health problem. Every day we work to learn more about how to prevent it before it begins. We have made so much progress toward our goal of sexual violence prevention:
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