Why Prevention Work is Vital
By Catie Oidtman, Safe Havens' Program Coordinator
Having previously worked at a philanthropic organization, I often heard Board members and fellow colleagues speak about the importance of a strong “Return on Investment” (ROI) when choosing which proposals to fund. Time and time again, I saw the choice to fund projects that were responding to crises rather than focusing on prevention work. After all, it is easy to measure the number of food-insecure people you provide meals or the amount of families experiencing violence provided crisis support. It is harder however to count the number of people that do not experience something. For example, how do we measure the number of people who NEVER experience violence due to the training and community awareness building required to create the culture change needed to prevent all forms of violence?
Despite this, prevention work is vital to creating safe and thriving communities. I was recently reading an article about the economic and social impacts of intimate partner violence. Did you know that the population economic burden of intimate partner violence is estimated at almost $3.6 trillion over victims lifetimes in the United States alone? This number is based on the 43 million adults in the US that have experienced violence, and takes into account medical costs, loss in productivity among people who experience and perpetrate violence, criminal justice system costs, etc. Beyond economic consequences of abuse, there are severe health and social impacts caused by intimate partner violence. Women who experience violence are at a higher risk for health problems, such as chronic pain, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and gynecological issues. They are also more likely to have poorer educational outcomes, higher job instability, and increased likelihood to experience homelessness as a result of physical, psychological, and economic abuse.
Intimate partner violence has clear negative impacts, but it can be prevented, and if we can prevent all this from ever happening, why did I see time and time again proposals that focused on prevention work passed over?
Now, don’t get me wrong—response work is also critical and very much needed. I am not making the case to reduce support for this essential and life-saving work. Instead, I am making a “BOTH AND” case… I think we should focus on promoting both response work AND prevention work to further move towards a world free from all forms of violence.