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  • Kelsey Erwin

Public Health and Violence Prevention: Individuals and Relationships

In the first blog of this series, we talked about the four layers of the social-ecological model and its use in preventing domestic violence. In this second blog, we will be talking more about the first two layers of the model: individual and relationships.

We will say that a relationship free of violence is going to be our “cake”. In order to make a good cake, you need to know how, have a clear recipe and all the right ingredients and tools. Sometimes, things happen so that a cake does not turn out the way you had hoped. Maybe you didn’t have a recipe, the stove was broken or some of the ingredients were old and expired. These “risk” factors make it less likely you will have a successful cake, while “protective” factors are the things that help make sure the cake will be great.

In public health, we apply the idea of risk and protective factors to interpersonal violence - they can increase or decrease the chances that domestic violence will occur. A risk factor is not a cause, as many people who experience risk factors in their lives do NOT choose to use violence. Just like missing one ingredient in a cake does not necessarily mean the cake is ruined.

Domestic violence and healthy relationships start at the individual and relationship levels, with risk and protective factors that are different for every person. Some of these factors include:

All of the above factors impact the likelihood that domestic violence will occur. You cannot have a healthy and safe relationship if you do not know how, just like you cannot bake a cake without some sort of recipe. We all get our recipes from different places, our friends, family, schools and even the internet. This is similar to how we form thoughts and opinions about healthy relationships and violence. Sojourner helps encourage protective factors such as developing skills to identify healthy and safe relationships and building non-violent problem-solving skills through our SafeU program.

Our final post next month will talk about the prevention of domestic violence on the community and societal levels - tune in to learn more about public health and violence prevention work done at Sojourner!

The above post was written by Outreach and Education intern, Brandi H. She is currently finishing up her Master of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Her graduate studies at the U have allowed her to expand on her personal and academic interests in domestic violence prevention and we are happy to have her with us.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Social-Ecological Model: A Framework for Violence. Retrieved from:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. Fast Facts: Preventing Teen Dating Violence.

Wilkins, N., Tsao, B., Hertz, M., Davis, R., Klevens, J. (2014). Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links Among Multiple Forms of Violence. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Oakland, CA: Prevention Institute


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