NME Week: Building Partnerships in Sexual Violence Prevention by Nancy Breton

Hello AEA! My name is Nancy Breton, and I am the Sexual Violence Prevention Evaluator with the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH). Much of my work focuses on ensuring state-funded sexual violence prevention education programs within New Mexico middle and high schools are effective, impactful, and sustainable. Over time, I noticed themes of behavior and its potential relationship with socioeconomic and demographic issues – especially within marginalized populations. I sought to understand state-specific root causes of sexual violence.

Luckily, our Sexual Violence Prevention program received supplementary funding from CDC, allocating $10,000 for this project. Because of the limited timeline (4 months to report findings – yikes!), I had to focus in to feasibly create a thorough report by the deadline.

Rad Resource: The 2016 Sex Crimes Trends in New Mexico report states that the American Indian/Native American population comprised 15% of New Mexicans who reported experiencing sexual violence, even while comprising less than 10% of the state population. Given this was a pilot project with limited funds and time, I decided to work with the Native population within the Albuquerque area. Finding partners for this project was not easy, as there is historical trauma associated with government “research” on this population. I worked hard to create a relationship with various partners, which has been quite rewarding.

Lessons Learned: The information from this project is sacred and private – this community owns the data and will choose who and how it will be shared, should they choose to. Still, I learned a few lessons that I feel are pertinent for other evaluators:

  1. “Evidence-based”: This term can be subjective. Marginalized populations have practiced their own forms of research within their community. Be sure to empower them as knowledge brokers.
  2. Asset Mapping: Think about and ask the community what they see as limitations, but, also, what strengths they can identify to address their concerns.
  3. Serve vs. Help: Unless the community identifies you as one of its own, you are an outsider. Therefore, act in service to this community. They are not helpless.
  4. Complete and Absolute Partnership: If a community will be affected by your report then include them throughout deciding what is important to investigate, what should be reported, and who should have access to the data.
  5. It Takes Time: Building community relationships is an important component of ethical evaluation, even if funding deadlines make that difficult. Face-to-face meetings and maintaining rapport will show your dedication to serve, and will create invaluable partnerships. Co-leading with members of the community and adequately compensating all those involved would be a model.

I hope this helps! To see more of NMDOH and our partners’ efforts to prevent sexual violence in New Mexico, check out our site: https://nmhealth.org/about/erd/ibeb/svsp/. Keep up the amazing work!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating New Mexico (NM) Evaluators (www.nmeval.org) Week. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “NME Week: Building Partnerships in Sexual Violence Prevention by Nancy Breton”

  1. Dear Ms. Breton,

    I am currently in my final semester at Queen’s University with their online Professional Masters of Education, focusing on Aboriginal Studies.
    I have chosen to take a course on Program Inquiry & Evaluation.

    I have never taken a course quite like this before and the AEA was introduced to me by our Professor. I chose to read and send a message to you regarding your post because it is something that is close to my heart. I work in an isolated First Nations reserve as an elementary teacher where there is a lot of sexual violence that has occurred not only to young women but also young men (and sadly much of it has never been reported to authorities, even when we are told and we bring this information forth, we cannot legally do anything to change the situation).

    This is why your article was so important to me. Your position as you stated is focusing “on ensuring state-funded sexual violence prevention education programs within New Mexico middle and high schools are effective, impactful, and sustainable.”

    The tips for evaluators that you provided were fantastic and I completely understand why you wrote them. In particular, the following on hit home:

    “Complete and Absolute Partnership: If a community will be affected by your report then include them throughout deciding what is important to investigate, what should be reported, and who should have access to the data” The community where I live in work is very small and news travels fast. Unfortunately, the media has often left the community with a lot of negative news and not a lot of positive pieces are out there. This is very important, working with a small community with different practices, values and concepts need to be respected.

    In addition, I found Asset Mapping to be very interesting and I believe it helped with creating trusting relationships with the participants and clients you worked with.

    I commend you on this. I have a few questions that I would be honoured if you wouldn’t mind replying back to.

    1. How did you work around obtaining information and sharing the data? What were the major obstacles that you faced other than the 4-month time limit? (“this community owns the data and will choose who and how it will be shared, should they choose to”) I completely understand the concept of owning the data and how the community decides what to do with it. It is very, very similar to where I live and work.

    2. Do you feel like the community saw you as one of their own over time or realized that you respected them so that they were willing to co-operate? What was a pivotal moment that helped you with the community in order to complete the evaluation?

    3. What motivated you to become an evaluator for NMDOH?

    4. Have you ever evaluated other programs in regards to sexual violence prevention education programs in other Countries?

    5. What technological tools did you find to be the best to help you collect data? What types of data were the most difficult to obtain?

    Thank you for your time,
    Magdalena Brzoska

    1. Hello Magdalena,
      I appreciate your kind and supportive words, and apologize for taking so much time to respond. In all honesty, I didn’t know that you left a comment/question! I’ll go through each of your questions to answer them the best way possible.

      1. While I only had 4 months to perform the evaluation activities, I had word that the funding was coming to carry out the project (we couldn’t start work until we had the funding in hand). I spent about a month or two talking to everyone I knew about the idea – even people I didn’t think had any leads. Eventually, I was pointed to speak with two indigenous facilitators who had connections with youth and parents (I had connections with sexual assault service providers). From there, they informed me of who to talk to in order to secure participants. I spent a lot of time meeting with school faculty to make sure the messaging was clear and not triggering. The setbacks I experienced was rooted in the short amount of time I had to gain trust. I continuously reminded all the stakeholders (including the youth) that this was their information and my only obligation is to report this to CDC. I let them know that I am learning, they are the experts, and the information will only be shared with who they want it to be shared with. Also, before recording each focus group, the facilitator and I asked if everyone was ok with recording for the day (we even had consent forms for adults). One day, one of the students said they didn’t want to be recorded – so we didn’t. We still did some asset mapping that day, so I am using that for that days findings.

      2. I don’t think the community sees me as one of their own, but I do think they see me as an ally. I made sure to show my respect and cooperate with what they were willing to do/share. I think the pivotal moment was my dedication to speak with them in person, extensively, and involving indigenous folks in all the aspects that I wasn’t able to cover (i.e. facilitation). I think this showed that I respected their space and wanted to serve them – not help.

      3. My job! I used to live in New Orleans (I am an East Coast native), and my passion has always been in sexual violence prevention. I was a rape crisis counselor before getting my MPH. When I saw the job posting, I jumped on it and was lucky enough to be hired!

      4. No, but I do quarterly literature reviews to see what’s going on around the world when it comes to sexual violence prevention. I usually present the most interesting (and potentially applicable) ones in our internal meetings.

      5. I mainly used recording devices and sent the audio files to a transcriber who sent me back the transcripts. I am analyzing the transcripts via NVivo. I would say the types of data that was most difficult to obtain was people data. Basically, we were unable to engage with youth males and parents. We advertised and even held a time and place for these meetings, but no one showed up.

      I hope this all answers your questions! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any others!


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