Interrupting Rape Worldwide

In Chicago, a violence prevention program has gained prominence for regarding violence as an infectious disease–and for interrupting it before it occurs. The organization, Cure Violence, says its techniques have reduced shooting deaths in half a dozen countries. But so far, the program has done little to interrupt intimate partner violence (IPV), including rape and sexual assault.

In this project, journalist M. Sophia Newsman investigates why—and whether—violence interruption can be expanded to address IPV and reduce infections rape can spread.

Cure Violence interrupts violence by talking to gang members and others involved in street violence and persuading them not to escalate or retaliate after an act of violence has occurred. The method often involves recognizing a person’s humanity and sense of powerlessness.

But thought patterns underlying IPV may differ sharply from gang violence. Nor are patterns of intimacy universal across cultures. In sub-Saharan Africa, dating can involve transactions of sex and goods, which has been alleged to promote IPV and increase HIV transmission.

Is it possible to talk an assailant out of sexually assaulting his partner? Can regarding IPV as a contagious disease reduce the spread of HIV? If so, would the method work in Cape Town, South Africa, where violence interruption is already operating?