Using Freire’s Work to develop Social Justice – Centered Prevention Efforts

Freire radicalized literacy education for Brazilian students in the 1960s. His model of freeing people from their preconceived notions of the world and moving them to action fits the rape prevention world well. By freeing potential perpetrators from cultural biases, peer pressure, and a world that condones criminal behavior, we free them from oppression—as Freire did for his Brazilian students.


  • There’s nothing we can do to stop the horror, but we can help victims.
  • There’s nothing we can do to stop the horror, but we can punish those who commit the crime.
  • We can address those who are at risk of committing the crime and teach them new actions.


Rape, Sexual Assault, Forced Fondling, Stalking, Dating Violence, and Domestic Violence




  • Teach boys to be good men
  • Send healthy media messages and curricula
  • Model healthy relationships
  • Policies to promote healthy relationships


  • Advertise the Hotline
  • Teach self-defense
  • Teach “How to help a Friend” Workshops
  • Teach first responder workshops

Behavior Change Theories

Most behavior change theories depict a subject-action-consequence structure. With a plethora of behavior change theories in public health, it should be easy to select one that addresses the primary prevention of sexual violence. However, this is not the case. Most of these theories depict a subject-action-consequence.

For example, if I don’t wear my seat belt, I may have negative consequences (horrible injuries); therefore, I’ll wear my seatbelt. 

Sexual violence is different; perpetrators often have few or no negative consequences (few are prosecuted). Indeed, there is often much to be gained (e.g., peer approval, sexual gratification, power, dominance). If perpetrators regularly receive positive consequences for their violent behavior, then what behavior change theory might work in this world? The only behavior change model that can be effective for the primary prevention of sexual violence is the Theory of Freeing, initially created by Paulo Freire.

Next, I will discuss Paulo Freire and his work.

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