By Joan Tabachnick and Jenny Coleman
ATSA brings a unique perspective to sexual violence prevention with its focus on preventing the perpetration of sexual harm. Few organizations or resources echo this important focus more cleanly than Stop It Now! USA, its international affiliations, and its newest program/website, What’s OK (www.whatsok.org). What’s OK is a new FREE resource that every ATSA members should know about and has been receiving rave reviews from many non-profit organizations, public agencies, colleges and universities who work directly with children and teens!
Released at the end of last year, Stop It Now! USA has created a new website to bring this laser focus on perpetration prevention to adolescents and young adults (aged 14-22). The website and resources address questions about whether not a teen or young adult may have crossed the line, or have concerns about their sexual behaviors or interests. This new resource is a safe and confidential place for youth to reach out for help if they are concerned that they are causing harm and have no one they can easily ask these heart wrenching questions.
What’s OK was developed (with support from the World Childhood Foundation) because Stop It Now! saw an urgent need for resources for young people questioning their sexual interests and behaviors, both on their helpline and through discussions with other professionals. The idea was to create a compassionate, accessible, practical, and helpful pathway for young people to get information and to support them to ask for help or when there is a concern about someone else’s behaviors.
In 2021, 21% of total Helpline contacts were self-help (concerned about their own interests/behaviors) and 4% were from children and youth asking for help with their sexual feelings and behaviors towards younger children. An example is this email from a youth at risk to abuse:
“I have noticed that I have an attraction to prepubescent girls (and) feel that their safety around me is quickly dwindling, and it has become exponentially harder for me to resist. I have told my mother, but she doesn’t know what do and is as depressed about it as I am. I’m not entirely sure what to do, but I do know that there is no cure, so what I’m asking for is ways to prevent the provocation, if it is possible. It would really help if I can receive fast help.”
In 2021, after an extensive review of the literature, conversations with young people about what they might want, including a newly established youth council, and many meetings with experts from around the country, the NOW! staff used these insights to create a website, facts sheets, texting as a new communication vehicle, social media ads and other resources for a campaign to target youth ages 14-22.
A social media/digital marketing campaign was launched and piloted in the fall with the goals of increasing youth awareness of the helpline and What’s OK resources as well as increasing youth use of the helpline. The following ads were launched on TicTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. Here are the links to four different approaches:
· Addicted (Stock): https://youtu.be/PtzomrjQmUQ
· Addicted (Emoji): https://youtu.be/3pdSwFv80dU
· Harm: https://youtu.be/IRM7f_jBTPA
· Am I OK?: https://youtu.be/_7NWwRYIy_A
In just the first month, the pilot far exceeded its initial goal of 50K and reached nearly 175,000 young people. These generated nearly 3,000 clicks/swipes and nearly 500 shared the posting with a friend. And young people have responded. From a 16-year-old who found this resource through Instagram and contacted Now! with concerns about frequent masturbation:
thank you it's been really helpful to talk to someone about this and it has let some steam off my chest.
And from a recently turned 15-year-old who chatted in that they were reaching out because,
“I’ve been having sexual thoughts and feelings towards children (ages 7-12 ), but not in real life, I found videos and photos but only those, I never want to harm a child and sometimes I can’t even control my thoughts and I’m scared.”
At the end of the consult the caller said, “Thank you so much! I appreciate you making the time to speak with me! I’ll definitely take your advice” and the caller said they planned on speaking with their therapist about setting helpful and clear boundaries.
Given the success of this initial pilot, Stop It Now! received funding for a second year to further develop the materials on the website and expand this digital marketing campaign. Stay tuned!
For further information, contact Jenny Coleman, Director, Stop It Now! at JColeman@stopitnow.org.
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