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Stop It Now!

The Men’s Project at Jesuit Social Services, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, has assessed the feasibility of a Stop it Now! service in Australia that prevents child sexual abuse and offending involving child exploitation material.

Stop it Now! is a program that currently operates successfully in North America, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and the Netherlands (Brown, Jago, Kerr, McNaughton- Nicholls, Paskell & Webster, 2014). The program’s key feature is a phone helpline for people who are worried about their sexual thoughts and behaviours, as well as parents, family members, and professionals who come across child sexual abuse.

As part of this work, The Men’s Project at Jesuit Social Services has completed consultations with stakeholders including the Department of Health and Human Services (Victoria), the Department of Justice and Regulation (Victoria), the Department of Social Services (Commonwealth), the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Home Affairs, Victoria Police, Google, Forensicare, On the Line, Kids Helpline, the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family welfare, academic experts and Stop it Now! providers in other jurisdictions.

Based on these discussions, we recommend the establishment of Stop it Now! in Australia. Our report outlines considerations for program development, including: the scope of the program and who it is targeted at; governance; integration and partnership with services in different jurisdictions; staff capability; legal issues; and resourcing.

Download your copy of Stop It Now!: A Scoping Study on Implementation in Australia

Download your copy of a four page brochure about Stop it Now!

The Issue

There are currently no large-scale national early intervention programs in Australia for people who are worried about their sexual thoughts or behaviours in relation to children (McKibbin, Humphreys & Hamilton, 2017). The gap in preventative interventions for potential perpetrators was identified by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and Stop It Now! was highlighted as a potential model to adopt in the recommended National Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Strategy (Royal Commission, 2017).

The Need

Child sexual abuse is a significant problem in Australia and worldwide. Being abused as a child can have lifelong consequences, including: depression; self- harm; relationship and social engagement difficulties; sexual dysfunction; substance abuse; physical health issues; and criminal and antisocial behaviour (Paolucci, Genuis & Violato, 2001). This human and economic cost can be devastating and there is also significant cost involved in the judicial response to perpetrators (Saied-Tessier, 2014).

The best available evidence suggests:

  • Approximately 20% of girls and 8% of boys have suffered child sexual abuse before the age of 18 years with over two-thirds abused by someone they know (Pereda, Guilera, Forns & Gómez-Benito, 2009; Stoltenborgh, van IJzendoorn, Euser & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2011)
  • Males account for the vast majority of sex offences (Royal Commission, 2017) and it is estimated that about 3–5% of the male population has paedophilic disorder (a person who has a sexual interest in pre-pubescent children who may or may not act on these feelings) (Seto, 2008).
  • Many adults first commit sexual abuse offences when they are in their late twenties or thirties (Smallbone, Marshall & Wortly, 2008) although most minor-attracted persons become aware of their sexual interests much earlier (B4U-ACT, 2011).
  • Shame, stigma and justice consequences are barriers to potential offenders accessing help if services are not anonymous and confidential (Evans & Cubellis, 2015).

What we are proposing

We propose to implement a Stop it Now! style program in Australia that will provide anonymous, safe and confidential service for people worried about their sexual thoughts and behaviours in relation to children and young people. This early intervention service will target anyone in a position to influence child safety, including potential perpetrators of sexual abuse, their family members, friends, colleagues as well as professionals. We are proposing:

  • a phone helpline and text contact facility which balances engagement with accountability, provides information, completes safety planning based on a comprehensive risk assessment and facilitates referrals for additional assistance (in compliance with legal and mandatory reporting obligations)
  • a website with advice, self-help materials and guidance to raise awareness around child abuse as well as links to a network of partner agencies who would refer to and receive referrals from Stop It Now! Australia.We propose that the service is situated outside of government but that the governance framework promotes partnership with law enforcement agencies, services working with offenders supported by local service directories, technology companies, and victims-survivor services. An Australian Stop it Now! would be positioned as a secondary prevention initiative, which would require strong promotional activity at a primary prevention level that should complement other primary prevention activity in the National Child Abuse Prevention Strategy.

The helpline and text contact facility would be staffed by a small but highly skilled clinical team with experience in: mental health; law enforcement; domestic and family violence; and sexual abuse services. At least two practitioners should be available at the national phoneline at any time, with one able to perform a supervisory role and provide secondary consultation on cases. In addition, coordinators would be responsible for establishing appropriate referral pathways for specific states and territories.

We are also proposing to undertake a further piece of work called the Worried About Sex and Porn Project for children and young people (WASAPP). This action research project will co-design an online early intervention for children and young people with problematic sexual behaviours. The online intervention will be separate from, but aligned with, the Australian Stop it Now! service.

Download the report

Download your copy of Stop It Now!: A Scoping Study on Implementation in Australia