Montana Prevention Workshop Held

Awareness to Action Workshop hosted by Montana Attorney General's Office

On Friday, January 27, 2012 Stop It Now! Program Director Yvonne Cournoyer was the featured speaker at a day-long Awareness to Action workshop in Missoula, Montana. The workshop was hosted by the Montana Attorney General's Office Child Protection Unit, the Missoula County Attorney's Office, the Missoula County Multi-Disciplinary Team, and the Flathead County Children's Advocacy Center with sponsorship by the Montana Children’s Trust Fund, the Montana Child Sexual Abuse Response Team, and the University of Montana School of Social Work. Over 110 people gathered to learn about what they and their organizations could do to prevent the sexual abuse of children before they are ever harmed. The main question for the day was: What is your vision for how Western Montana can prevent the sexual abuse of children.

Focus on adult responsibility

The daylong session opened with Cournoyer presenting an Overview of Child Sexual Abuse Prevention which focused on what child sexual abuse is, who sexually abuses children, Stop It Now’s approach to prevention, and examples of prevention efforts using both the Spectrum of Prevention and the Socio-ecological model. There was a lively question and answer session as participants were asked to talk about how the information presented either confirmed or challenged their thoughts about how western Montana can prevent child sexual abuse. Many were excited about the focus on adult responsibility and on things everyone can do to become knowledgeable about how to take action to prevent child sexual abuse.

Action steps for individuals and organizations

The second morning session focused on specific actions individuals and organizations can take to recognize concerning situations and take action at that point rather than feeling like you have to wait until something has already happened to get involved. Cournoyer reviewed key areas where youth serving organizations can change their culture to send a message that as an organization, they are committed to the safety of all children. She also talked about how by focusing on policy, an organization’s commitment to keeping children safe is embedded in the fabric of the organization.

Planning for future collaboration

After lunch, participants broke into three smaller groups which then broke down again into even smaller, targeted groups. Each group discussed these questions: What is already happening on our communities? What’s missing? Where do we want to go in the next twelve months? And What do we need to get there? Many participants really appreciated the opportunity to work together to think about how collectively they could be more proactive and make a greater difference in keeping children safe from sexual abuse. After working in small groups, everyone reconvened as one large group to hear about the suggestions and ideas developed in the smaller groups.

Several themes emerged. Participants acknowledged that in the current economic climate, no one organization has the time or resources to take this on but rather organizations need to work together and embed messages about prevention in their work. Ideas discussed included creating consistent language, partnering with media outlets to get the word out, embedding child sexual abuse prevention in other conferences, creating a prevention coalition, and educating Montanans about mandatory reporting and what to do if you see something that concerns you.

The workshop received local press including:

Contact us for more information on Stop It Now! workshops.