The foundation of sex abuse prevention lies in the ability to speak up – to have a conversation. When anyone who has a concern about a child’s sexual safety can move out of secrecy, isolation, fear and confusion and get support, information and resources, then that person is more prepared to act protectively. Stop It Now!’s unique toll-free and confidential Helpline (1.888.PREVENT), email and chat services provides the tools and guidance to have difficult conversations and take necessary actions to plan for children’s safety for anyone reaching out for help. Beyond the Helpline, we also offer an interactive Online Help Center (OHC) and our Ask Now! advice column to help provide guidance on questions about child sexual abuse.
Stop It Now!'s Help Services applies the organization's mission, philosophy, mission, experience and empirical research in an effective and practical approach to provide support, information and guidance to individuals seeking information about child sexual abuse. In every contact, whether as a visitor to our website's Help Services or in a confidential phone call with our Helpline, our objective is to encourage all adults to act responsibly and preventively.
A safe place to talk is a key to action
Scientific surveys commissioned by Stop It Now! since 1995 consistently show that adults are well-aware and informed about the issue, but lack information about what to do when confronted by situations in their own lives where the sexual abuse of children is a concern. Therefore, our programs seek to provide adults a variety of practical ways to take responsible action on the issue in their everyday lives – including knowing where to get help.
All of our work focuses on providing education, empowerment and support to build the confidence, knowlege and actual actions to respond to concerns about sex abuse. We offer strategies, specialized information and guidance for parents, professional caregivers, educators, and community leaders. We emphasize practical actions adults can take, such as recognizing questionable behavior, creating safety plans and speaking up to prevent abuse before it happens. Our experience confirms that adults can and will act to protect children but only if they can get balanced information and practical strategies, feel supported and have access to specialized resources.
The Help Services Program provides the specialized information and help we know adults need to take action in their daily lives. Help Services includes a range of ways for people to get guidance for concerns about situations involving possible child sexual abuse.
Stop It Now!’s objective for every visitor to our Help Services is that they feel prepared and empowered to act to keep children safe from sexual abuse. This is a process of development for many people, so our Help Services are designed to break prevention down into manageable steps.
With guidance from our staff, adults can identify treatment options, develop safety plans, craft language for an effective intervention if they have concerns about a specific situation and learn how to report those concerns to authorities when appropriate.
The Helpline (1.888.PREVENT), its email and chat response service provides information, referrals and support for individuals concerned about possible child sexual abuse. To help support recovery and reduce recidivism of convicted sex offenders, our Helpline also responds to letters from incarcerated sex offenders seeking information on treatment and resources for reintegration.
How the Helpline works
With guidance from professional staff, adults are able to learn about sexual abuse and how to develop a safety plani for their children and families. They are able to find language for an effective conversation when they have concerns and to identify specialized treatment options for themselves or someone they care about, and learn how to report those concerns to authorities when appropriate. Adults with concerns about themselves can find out that help is available, and where to get that help. Individuals with any type of child sexual abuse question or concern are provided with information, tools and support to make choices to prevent and respond to the sexual abuse of children. The Helpline provides resources for:
- Awareness and Education
- Planning and Prevention
- Responding and Protecting
- Support and Treatment
Stop It Now!’s professional staff offer callers a broad range of resources and information - about behaviors that can make children vulnerable, about how to recognize inappropriate behaviors and about warning signs that indicate a child may already have been sexually abused. Using the latest research and statistics, we provide facts to counter the myths and stereotypes that often confuse the public’s understanding of sexual abuse and that hamper society’s efforts to prevent abuse.
Hope and empowerment are vital to any Helpline contact. Stop It Now! views child sexual abuse as a preventable social problem. Adults are reminded that their actions can make a difference either in stopping a child from being harmed further or in preventing abuse from happening at all. This is relayed in every response to every contact to the Helpline.
The OHC is a web-based tool that provides adults with 24/7 access to balanced information and practical resources for questions and situations involving possible child sexual abuse. Users start by answering some basic questions about the situation, and are then provided with customized information in key categories. The OHC is an entry point accessing additional help, including the Helpline and other resources on and off our website.
Ask Now! is an advice column on the Stop It Now! website that shares the questions and responses that come into the Helpline every day from people all over the world. Emailers to the Helpline are asked permission (and two-thirds give it) to share their stories and real life challenges so that others can learn what is needed to keep children safe and recognize that no one has to be alone with their fears and confusion.
The concerns of adults who access our Help Services reflect what we know about the crime of child sexual abuse and underscore the great potential for improving the crime prevention ability of adults – laypeople and professionals alike. Integrating what we know about helping individuals build their confidence and their resources so that they can speak out and take protective actions, our Helpline provides child sexual abuse prevention training and capacity building services to other organizations that provide services directly to children, adults and families during challenging times. We help other helplines, crisis lines and hotlines develop their response to child sexual abuse inquiries by training and coaching them to identify prevention opportunities in their inquiries. We help organizations build their child sexual abuse prevention approach by helping all staff identify actionable opportunities to advance primary prevention in all of their services.
Our online presence and our position as a thought leader in sexual abuse prevention has brought the international community to us, often seeking support and resources to introduce prevention concepts to their own communities. We have partnered with organizations in India, Columbia, Kenya, Nigeria, Grenada and others to train local community helplines in a specialized response to child sexual abuse concerns.
Public health campaigns have been successful in changing the way the public thinks and acts on issues such as drinking and driving, smoking in public spaces, practicing safer sex, and using seat belts. Stop It Now! has successfully applied social marketing principles to motivate people to learn about sexual abuse and take action to prevent it. Our public health campaigns target adult audiences to:
- Increase public knowledge of the realities of child sexual abuse
- Teach skills for recognizing signs of sexually abusive behaviors and for intervening before a child is harmed
- Challenge people who abuse - and the family and friends who influence them - to stop abusing, seek help, and face accountability.
A key feature of all campaign messaging is a call to action to know where to get more information and help through our website and Help Services.
The Stop It Now! Helpline opened in 1995 as part of the Stop It Now! Vermont pilot program, to support Stop It Now!’s community-based programming and social marketing campaigns to provide guidelines, support, and resources to anyone who had questions or concerns about preventing child sexual abuse.
In the beginning, the majority of the people calling our Helpline were those adults who were seeking information and support to address their own sexual thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward children. We sought to initiate conversation with these adults to help them hold themselves accountable and get help.
As the landscape of how convicted sex offenders are managed in the community changed with registry notification laws, adults who were calling to get help for themselves to reduce their risk to children became less. We began to hear more and more from those adults in “bystander” roles, who were worried about a child’s sexual safety. This includes adults worried about other adult’s behaviors towards children, and increasingly includes concerns about children’s behaviors with other children.
Although never designed to be scaled up as a national service, it served callers nationally for whom it was the only place to turn for help of this kind: professional, specialized, high quality child sexual abuse prevention information and support. By the early 2000s, the Helpline became a de facto national and international service due to the organization’s presence online.
Today, adults from around the world seek out Help Services for support in preventing sexual abuse and asking for help to keep a child safe. The Helpline “speaks” with parents, teachers, extended relatives, mental health professionals, youth organization staff, church members and leaders and many others. We continue to speak with adults worried about themselves, as our approach remains committed to providing resources to all adults so that they can be accountable for children’s safety.
For example, among our Helpline callers, 60 percent call about situations where adults can prevent sexual abuse before it is perpetrated, evidence that our services directly reach families or child-serving professionals before a child is harmed.
All adults who contact us with questions or concerns about child sexual abuse receive practical guidelines, resources and access to personalized professional guidance and support. Inquiries may be about concerns over a specific child, adult or situation, or about general questions regarding typical sexual behavior in children or where to find specific types of professional training or resources.