Promoting Adolescent Sexual health and Safety (PASS) in Washington, DC

A coercive sexual environment (CSE), i.e., one promoting an atmosphere rife with sexual threats and pressures, is a neighborhood-level threat that appears to play a critical role in the lives of poor adolescent girls, contributing to high rates of sexual assault, STI/HIV and teen pregnancy. The African-American community in DC suffers from the highest HIV rates in the country, with 3% of all individuals infected (a higher prevalence than in Haiti). Addressing CSE may be beneficial to reducing HIV transmission rates in the population, as well as reducing other CSE-related threats. To date, there has been little exploration of the connection between chronic threats to female ‘sexual safety’ and youth health and development. Further, no attempts have been made to alter neighborhood physical and social structures that promote CSE.

Partnering with the Urban Institute, Dr. Silverman collaborated with DC Housing Authority, African-American residents of Benning Terrace (a public housing community located in Ward 7 of the District), and community-based organizations to develop, implement and evaluate programs to alter neighborhood factors that create CSE in order to reduce the high rates of sexual assault, STI/HIV and teen pregnancy among girls 9-18 years old living in public housing. The PASS initiative used community-based participatory methods to develop and evaluate an evidence-based service model to address CSE and improve health and social outcomes for adolescent girls living in public housing. The current project involves an outcomes and implementation evaluation of the PASS intervention. Pending evaluation results, we aim to manualize, sustain, and replicate the PASS intervention based on this effort.

* Funded by Health and Human Services/ACF

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