Thanking Anita Hill 20 Years Later
Origins of the Stop It Now! Name
by Fran Henry, October 2011
Recently, we invited Fran Henry, Stop It Now! founder and former Executive Director, to our offices and asked her about how she came up with the name "Stop It Now!". Read or watch Fran's recollections here.
I sat quietly on a bench drawing deep breaths, realizing that I was about to bring an organization into existence. It was the fall of 1991. My passion to prevent child sexual abuse had transformed to an articulated program idea: to prevent harm by reaching people who were about to.
At the time, few people believed in how many people hurt children in this manner. Fewer still realized that the males and females closest to children were most likely to do the harm. Prevention programs depended upon children being able to recognize and report abuse. I knew from my own experience that this was a burden to great to bear for many children. But I did not want the focus to be on me or my experience - I wanted the organization to learn from adults who were in a position to prevent the abuse, if they only had the information and courage to do so.
As I sat on that bench, I could not explain why I had been so drawn to the hearings held that month in Washington, D.C., calling Anita Hill to testify why she felt Clarence Thomas should be reconsidered for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. I listened to every hour of the public testimony, admiring her for rock-solid belief in her own facts and feelings concerning sexual harassment by Mr. Thomas when he had been her superior.
Finally, a senator asked something like, "If these allegations are true and they affected you the way you say they did, Ms. Hill, why did you not report them at the time?" I felt transfixed by what I remember as her reply, "I just wanted them to stop."
I just wanted it to stop. I just wanted it to stop. I wonder how many children just want it to stop? Not being able to think ahead more than that, but simply wanting it to stop, without the power to make that happen.
So it was that on that bench I realized why I had listened to Anita's courage with a matched intensity. A message of truth needed to ring out to parents everywhere. We might educate, we might guide, but most of all we needed a message that clearly stated our goal. From that moment, I knew the name Stop It Now! would carry that message and that we would use the full name, because it is the message itself we want people to take to heart.