Interpersonal Violence

Sexual violence is a serious public health problem that affects thou-sands of Coloradans every year. The lifetime prevalence of sexual violence by any perpetrator for women in Colorado is 20.5 percent, compared to 19.1 percent nationally. 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) results show that 6.3 percent of high school students reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse.

HKCS results also indicate that sexual violence is interconnected with several other critical health outcomes:


  • Students who report being bullied at school are 4 times more likely to also report being raped in their lifetime.
  • Students who report considering suicide are almost 6 times more likely to also report being raped in their lifetime.
  • Students who report missing school due to feeling unsafe are more than 5 times more likely to also report being raped in their lifetime.
  • Students who report using unprescribed prescription drugs are more than 4 times more likely to also report being raped in their lifetime.

A 2017 analysis estimated the cost of rape to society in the U.S. at $122,461 per victim. This estimate includes medical costs, lost work productivity, costs of the criminal justice system and other costs.

The mission of the Sexual Violence Prevention (SVP) Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is to work with diverse communities to increase health and safety by addressing the root causes of sexual violence through primary prevention strategies that impact the environments where Coloradans live, work, learn and play. 

The SVP Program prioritizes strategies that prevent someone from carrying out this behavior. This is a critical lens that shifts the environment to increase protective factors that reduce perpetration, rather than putting the onus on victims to change their behavior.

Sexual Violence Prevention Programs and Priorities

Many forms of violence and injury are connected and share many of the same risk and protective factors, which can put someone more or less at risk of experiencing or perpetrating sexual violence. These factors may include weak health, educational and social policies/laws, diminished economic opportunities or high unemployment rates, or community support/connectedness. 

Beginning in 2019, the SVP Program will exclusively fund programs to address these community-level factors and impact neighborhood, school systems, workplaces and other organizational settings. By changing these systems, the SVP Program grantees can work toward healthy social, economic and environmental conditions that have a sustainable impact for all communities.

Creating Protective Environments

Ensuring communities are safe, healthy and protective is critical to reducing violence. This strategy aims to improve community environments by addressing areas where youth and community members feel less safe, and creating an atmosphere free from harassment or violence.

One example of this is hot spot mapping, which is an evidence-based, data-driven strategy that supports communities and schools by identifying safe and unsafe spaces through authentic youth and community engagement. Hot spot mapping aims to increase community and school connectedness, a key factor that helps prevent bullying, suicide, sexual violence, substance abuse, child maltreatment and teen dating violence. Communities that Care, The Office of Suicide Prevention and the Maternal and Child Health bullying prevention priority have also endorsed hot spot mapping because it can impact several health outcomes.

Strengthening Economic Supports

Employment and income supports are important factors that reduce sexual violence victimization and perpetration. This strategy is a critical community-level change necessary to build the economic security of families and allow women to participate fully and equally in the workforce. This includes the development and enforcement of policies that ensure comparable salaries across genders, work supports such as quality affordable childcare and paid family and medical leave, access to key assistance programs such as WIC/SNAP, and family friendly business practices.

Researching Sexual Violence and Prevention, Using Resiliency, Strengths, Virality & Protective Factors Study (RSVP)2

The SVP program is a partner with several universities in a multi-year rigorous research study evaluating the impact of Sources of Strength, an evidence-based youth suicide prevention program, on shared risk and protective factors for sexual violence outcomes. The study is designed to answer the question: “Can an evidence-based suicide prevention program that builds protection shared with sexual violence, impact sexual violence also?”  The RSVP2 study has collected data from 4,234 students in 20 Colorado schools. Results from this study will be key in adding to the limited existing literature on effective strategies for the prevention of sexual violence.




Long-term Objectives:
  • Decrease in percentage of youth experiencing forced sexual intercourse
  • Decrease in rates of any sexual violence victimization within the past 12 months
  • Decrease in teen dating violence victimization
  • Decrease in domestic violence 911 calls
  • Decrease in emergency department visits due to intimate partner violence
  • Decrease in suspected intimate partner violence cases in emergency departments
Source of Strength Trainer Manual

Source of Strength is a primary prevention youth suicide program that is listed on the SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Program and Practices (NREPP). Sources of Strength has shown impact on school connectedness, youth and adult connectedness and other outcomes. In August 2015, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment began using funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Rape Prevention and Education program to pilot Sources of Strength with seven schools across Colorado. The theory underlying this project is based on the idea of shared protective factors, or things that make it less likely to experience violence or things that build resilience. School connectedness has been identified by the CDC as a shared protective factor for both suicide and sexual violence, as well as bullying, youth violence, and teen dating violence. Because Sources of Strength has demonstrated impact on school connectedness, Colorado has elected to pilot this project and evaluate for sexual violence indicators.
Source of Strength Field Guide





A Positive School Climate