By Jenny Coleman, Director, Stop It Now! US
Stop It Now! (Now!) is a national child sexual abuse prevention organization currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. Now! is the only organization of its kind in the US; we serve every adult responsible for preventing child sexual abuse, including people who are worried about their own sexual thoughts and behaviors toward children. Our signature programs including a free helpline, extensive online resources, trainings for professionals and caregivers, technical assistance and policy efforts. Across our work, Now! offers hope to adults, families, survivors, bystanders and professionals with an emphasis on protective actions that hold adults accountable for protecting children and creating safe, healthy spaces. Learn more at stopitnow.org
In 2022, Stop It Now! celebrates our 30th anniversary preventing child sexual abuse. Throughout the year and our virtual event on October 19, we’ll honor Now!’s founders, staff, volunteers, supporters and other champions in child sexual abuse prevention, and we will highlight our vision for the future of safety.
We were graciously invited to submit a blog on our anniversary activities, where we’ve been, and where we are going. But right now, it feels more important to address what’s happening in the United States in the context of child sexual abuse.
Hate groups and domestic terrorists have “hatejacked” the language of child sexual abuse – especially “groomer” and “pedophile”– to viciously attack LGBTQ+ communities and anyone else they oppose. Now! has commented on this publicity, but for our fellow members of ATSA, we have a particular responsibility to speak up when this wild misuse of language becomes public on a national and global scale.
Child sexual abuse is one of the worst things imaginable. We all want it to stop, right now and forever. We all want to keep children safe. As you know well, this “we” includes many of the people who have sexually harmed children or who have thoughts that they might.
Throwing around child sexual abuse terms as rhetorical devices only makes it harder to do the very real work of prevention and safety planning. It pushes people with concerning thoughts further into darkness. It takes a toll on victims, survivors and families. And, too often, it mobilizes groups of people around reductive, harmful slogans, policies and practices.
This comes on the heels of countless other news stories, legal cases and violent acts that led us to where we are as a country. And to that end, right now is a critical moment for child sexual abuse prevention. Though, that does always seem to be the case, doesn’t it?
In preparing for our 30th anniversary event, fellow ATSA member, early Now! staff member and expert in her own right Joan Tabachnick, PhD, shared the experience of working in child sexual abuse prevention in the early 1990s. She tells the story best, but suffice to say, no one talked about child sexual abuse above a hushed whisper, if ever. And today, Now! stands 30 years strong in having proactive, protective conversations every day about child sexual abuse, prevention, concerning thoughts and behaviors, survivor supports and safety planning.
Every day, Stop It Now! hears from caregivers, professionals and even youth who have been impacted by our prevention work. Through our Helpline, our WhatsOK youth project, our professional trainings and our partnerships, we hear the individual stories of adults stepping up and taking action to protect children.
As ever, we restore hope. It’s harder than it has been in a while, but we maintain every ounce of hope we have, and we share it freely.