Stop It Now! Minnesota

Brief History

After Stop It Now! founder Fran Henry gave a speech in 1997 at the Minnesota Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, people from Minnesota began discussing bringing the Stop It Now! approach to Minnesota. In 2000, staff from Stop It Now! began working with a Minnesota steering committee. In 2002, the steering committee applied for and received funding from the Minnesota Department of Health and a part time staff person was hired. Also in 2002, Project Pathfinder was one of three applicants funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Collaborative Efforts to Prevent the Perpetration of Child Sexual Abuse”. 

In May of 2003, Stop It Now! Minnesota held a public event to officially launch the program. The initial geographic focus was the seven county Twin Cities metropolitan area.  By 2005, Stop It Now! Minnesota was offering workshops and technical assistance statewide. 

Sponsoring Organization

Project Pathfinder, Inc. provides affordable and effective  assessment, evaluation and therapy services to treat harmful sexual behaviors in adults.  Prior to 2009, Project Pathfinder also provided treatment and assessment services for adolescents, children, and families.

Continuing Efforts

Stop It Now! Minnesota trained trainers continue to provide training for child care providers on “How Recognizing and Responding to Children’s Sexual Behaviors Can Prevent Child Sexual Abuse”. This training is available both through in-person training and as an on-line course offered through Eager to Learn

One Stop It Now! Minnesota billboard remains posted as a pro bono donation. 

Advisory Board/Collaborative Partners

During the start-up, Stop It Now! Minnesota had a Steering Committee that met monthly and eventually added an Advisory Board (Steering Committee members were included) that met quarterly. After several years, these were merged into one Advisory Committee that met bi-monthly.  Partners included:

  • Attorney General's Office
  • Cordelia Anderson of Sensibilities
  • Jacob Wetterling Foundation
  • Midwest Regional Children's Advocacy Center
  • Minnesota Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (MNATSA)
  • Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • Minnesota County Attorney's Association
  • Minnesota Department of Corrections
  • Minnesota Department of Health
  • Minnesota NETWORK for the Supervision and Treatment of Sex Offenders
  • Minnesota Public Defender
  • Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota
  • Sexual Violence Center
  • Survivors Network Minnesota
  • University of Minnesota's Center for Sexual Health

Funding Partners

  • MNATSA 2002 
  • Minnesota Department of Health 2002-2004
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003-2008
  • Community Foundations
  • Ms. Foundation
  • Individuals

Market Research: 

Social Marketing

Stop It Now! Minnesota created the first social marketing campaign targeting adults concerned about their own behavior. The campaign launched in November 2005 and received national press coverage. This campaign included a billboard, three posters, and three print ads. 

In 2006, with funding from the Minnesota Department of Health, the ad campaign was expanded from the seven county Twin Cities metropolitan area. Five additional communities (Brainerd, Duluth, Grand Rapids, Mankato, and St. Cloud) were selected. Each received a billboard. In addition, radio ads targeting bystanders  were created and distributed to these communities as well as to the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

The ad campaign resulted in a 33% increase in all helpline calls (from 109 to 143 calls) and a 250% increase in calls from the target audience--adults concerned about their own behavior (from 4 to 14 calls). Seven callers sought confidential ID’s to find out what help is available as well as what potential consequences they would face if they came forward. This is a 133% increase in calls (3) from the previous year.  In addition to people who were concerned about their own sexual thoughts or feelings towards children, we received calls from other people, often parents, spouses, or significant others who were concerned about a loved ones behavior.  From November 2005 to November 2006, 5,881 people visited our website through the youcanstopitnow web address we advertised only through the ads. 

Policy and Practice Change

Stop It Now! Minnesota efforts at policy and practice change had these impacts:

  • Starting in 2005, Stop It Now!’s “Do Children Sexually Abuse Other Children” guidebook was included in the licensing packets for child care providers.
  • Stop It Now! Minnesota presented testimony to the Governor’s Commission on Sex Offender Policy on what Minnesota could do to prevent the sexual abuse of children.
  • In addition, Stop It Now! Minnesota worked with several youth serving organizations to implement the CDC recommendations on comprehensive policies and practices to prevent child sexual abuse.

Community Education & Training

Stop It Now! presented at a wide variety of conferences including the Minnesota Social Services Association, the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention, and Parenting, Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota, etc. They also hosted Dialogues—presentation where adults affected by child sexual abuse shared their stories and participated in a conversation with audience members. 

Stop It Now! Minnesota developed and regularly delivered two primary trainings:

  • How Recognizing and Responding to Children’s Sexual Behaviors Can Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
  • Let’s Talk: Adults talking with Adults about Child Sexual Abuse Prevention

As part of the practice change described in the Public Policy section above, Stop It Now! Minnesota was invited to provide training to child care providers throughout the state. To address demand for this training, Stop It Now! Minnesota created a training of trainers and trained 20 experienced trainers from throughout Minnesota to provide this workshop. These workshops are still offered throughout the state. 

Evaluation

Stop It Now! Minnesota randomly surveyed 500 adults in both 2003 and 2007. They learned that residents who said they were familiar with Stop It Now! Minnesota in 2007 were more knowledgeable about child sexual abuse prevention including being significantly:

  • More likely to be interested in information on how to recognize signs of an adult at risk for abusing children (86.4% of those familiar vs. 74.2% of those not familiar)
  • More likely to strongly agree that it is likely adults who sexually abuse children live in their community (38.3% vs. 25.3%);
  • More likely to know a child who may have been sexually abused (22.8% vs. 8.6%)
  • More likely to refer people they were concerned may be sexually abusing a child to the Stop It Now! Helpline (4.5% vs. 0.7%) or other help lines (7.0% vs. 1.6%); and
  • Less likely to say they “don’t know” the warning signs of an adult who has sexually abused a child (24.8% vs. 44.9%).

Additional evaluation results

Media Coverage

Lessons Learned

Don’t underestimate the power and importance of healthy communication and collaboration. Minnesota had a history of collaboration between sex offender treatment providers and providers working with victims of sexual assault. Stop It Now! Minnesota built on that by recruiting and maintaining an active Advisory Committee where each member was encouraged to participate and to share their point of view. This resulted in many challenging conversations including decisions to sometimes agree to disagree but it also lead to strong, widespread public support of Stop It Now! Minnesota and its agenda. 

Be prepared for potential negative press coverage of social marketing campaigns. Before launching the ad campaign targeting adults concerned about their own behavior, staff spent considerable time with the Advisory Committee and visiting partner organizations to be certain that there was support for the campaign and to prepare for potential backlash to the campaign. It was also very helpful to work with a media consultant to prepare background materials for the press.

Plan for sustainability from the very beginning of your project. Project Pathfinder, Inc. operated primarily as a fee for service mental health provider. They did not have an infrastructure or experience with seeking grants. This resulted in a delay in seeking new funding and resulted in a dramatic decrease in funding once the CDC funding period ended. By 2009, they had no funds for Stop It Now! program staff.