Blackburn Center

In Westmoreland County, Blackburn Center advocates for the rights of all individuals to live free from gender-based violence in their homes and communities by eliminating the root causes of this violence and providing for the well-being and safety of survivors/victims.

In support of the agency’s commitment to primary prevention, Blackburn Center works to shift from a primary focus on risk reduction (e.g., what individuals can do to reduce the possibility of abuse) to community engagement on the ways our culture and society accept and promote violent behavior. Blackburn Center has moved beyond community awareness to community engagement and action in its programming.

This work has five main components:

Partner with College Campuses:

Blackburn Center is in partnership with Seton Hill University (SHU) and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg to address the changes needed on the campuses (through class and campus-wide activities) to address rape culture and attitudes that perpetuate domestic/dating and sexual violence. The campus projects also include components to strengthen the response to incidents on campus. Each institution has committed to policy change; and faculty, staff and students are involved in incorporating primary prevention and culture change into coursework across disciplines. Changes in attitudes are measured in a variety of ways, including a survey administered with first year students and repeated with seniors who are graduating. The survey assesses the students’ understanding of sexual and domestic violence issues, including their understanding of root causes; attitudes and beliefs about gender norms, masculinity, and consent; and their likelihood to blame the victim rather than hold offenders accountable. Primary prevention activities are informed by survey results.

Work with Schools:

Blackburn Center knows that it’s not acceptable to wait until college to talk to young people about abuse prevention. They provide programming in almost all Westmoreland County school districts, and have developed curriculum focused on primary prevention (e.g., media literacy). In addition, the agency offers an eight session curriculum for middle schools, with a primary prevention focus.

Engage the Community:

The agency’s website ( and blog, social media strategies (Facebook, Twitter), public engagement events (Walk a Mile in Her Shoes), marketing, and community education/discussion groups all invite community members to talk about how cultural messages and norms promote violence, as well as how concerned individuals can take action. In addition, Blackburn Center has launched a “Men as Allies” group, which invites men to:

  • Serve as change agents, with a commitment to support systemic, cultural change through their work with women, and when they are interacting with other men
  • Actively work to understand the world women experience, as well as their reaction to the female perspective
  • Take on the challenging issues (e.g., male privilege, ownership, language and assumptions) which often support the rape/violence culture

Incorporate Prevention into All Services: Blackburn Center finds opportunities in all aspects of its work to address primary prevention. For example, when the agency is training first responders about responding to the needs of victims, they incorporate a prevention message.

Ensure Internal Agency congruence: Blackburn Center has developed a Position Statement on Social Transformation: Ending Gender Violence and has committed to incorporating initiatives in the agency’s strategic plan and examining and updating agency policies and procedures to insure congruence with this statement. Examples include compensation practices; the agency’s Employee Handbook; and competency expectations for staff, board and volunteers.