As co-chair of ATSA’s prevention committee, I am often asked by members, “What can I do to get involved in prevention?” Charles (Chuck) Flinton has one unique answer for taking the knowledge and research in our field and applying that to a unique approach to preventing sexual abuse. Chuck has invested significant time and some funding to develop the Blue Rock Institute (http://www.bluerockinstitute.com/index.htm), a resource for adults to access if they are concerned about their own fantasies or behaviors and want help before anyone is harmed. Take a minute to look at this interesting website and this warm and positive approach to encouraging people to ask for help.
The Blue Rock Institute is designed for people who know they have a problem and want help. When someone does call and come in, the Institute begins with a comprehensive evaluation that involves a clinical interview and psychological testing, looking specifically for other co-occurring issues (e.g., food disorder and other compulsive behaviors). A key portion of this evaluation is to also identify the strengths they bring to the table to help them move away from their shame. At this point, the Institute may also prescribe medication as well as Individual and group treatment.
When I asked him how he started on this path, he said that “Over the years, I came across so many people who essentially lost everything in their lives due to their offense. These were guys who knew they had a problem and many even were seeking help but were rejected – that is the truly sad part.”
After conducting a number of focus groups, hiring consultants and developing the online resources, the program was ready to launch. He found that people talked about their fear of “crossing the line” and a major motivator is possible financial ruin. But getting the right message was only the first part of the challenge. The next challenge is to encourage people to call and then walk in the door. Much of that has happened organically with people telling others about the Blue Rock Institute. For example, one client goes to SAA meetings and announces there that there is a new resource and how helpful it can be. However, Chuck has also made a conscious effort to talk with everyone and anyone about this work. He has presented at a variety of conferences and also regularly presents information to health centers and other medical venues. In the spirit of talking with everyone, it was a connection at the gym that brought the program to Kaiser Permante, the largest health care provider in CA. Chuck was working out and started talking with a workout buddy about his new project. The workout buddy was also the chief psychologist for the entire state and invited Chuck to present to his staff. From there Chuck was able to build an ongoing relationship with this provider for when people do come forward, they can get help.
Chuck’s one piece of advice is to talk with anyone and everyone. I asked him how he talks about it so that people will really listen. He tries to engage people in the idea that this affects so many people they know and no one seems to talk about it. Chuck moves them from “rubber-necking” and “gawking” at the problem to really talking and thinking about this issue. And he does talk with everyone, presenting at conferences across the country, anyone interested in sexuality, addictions, and of course, a few ATSA chapters too. If you want to read more, you can see information about his work in the most recent issue of Psychology Today.
This is just one example of what one ATSA member is doing. Think about what you might want to do to get involved in preventing sexual abuse before anyone is harmed.