What is Just Tell?
The mission of Just Tell is to reach out to youth aged 8 to 17 who are being sexually abused in order to convey, in age-appropriate language, that: they are not alone, they are not to blame for the abuse and should feel no guilt or shame, and that they need to choose a trustworthy adult in their life and tell them about the sexual abuse. The secondary mission of JustTell is to educate and empower all youth around the issue of childhood sexual abuse
Long term desired outcomes of Just Tell are to increase the percentage of sexually abused children who disclose their sexual abuse and to change the way this generation of youth perceive and respond to childhood sexual abuse. All initiatives are directed to generating awareness and education for youth age 8–17 with teenagers as the primary means of dissemination. We provide compassionate, reliable guidance to prepare sexually abused children with the means to disclose to a trustworthy adult.
Because we do not provide individual services such as counseling, this is not a direct service mission. Instead, through our extensive website for sexually abused children, and our other methods of disseminating our messages, we help kids identify those adults in their lives who they can trust to help them. Ideally this is a parent, but often it is a teacher, guidance counselor, principal or another adult whom the child knows and trusts such as a coach, or another relative such as an aunt or grandparent. When the child needs to speak to someone anonymously, or needs help reporting the abuse, we offer our partner, the ChildHelp National Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD. When children are in danger, we recommend that they call 911. In this way, we hope to ensure that every sexually abused child we reach can choose a trustworthy adult to tell about the abuse and from whom they will receive support and help. Our website also includes pages to assist the adult to whom a young person discloses in how to help them and how to report abuse.
No one has ever used kids’ media, and internet sites where kids gather such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace to speak to young people about this issue. Our messages reach out to molested children and teens using methods and messages they can readily access and relate to. Whether it is by tweets, blogs and bulletins, through the wallet-sized cards our teen Street Teams will hand out as Community Service Projects, or by sexually abused kids accessing our website; we are kid-friendly and as hip as the teens who are helping us. And that gives us enormous credibility with kids who are being sexually abused.
Just Tell and Youth
Just Tell is dedicated to kids being part of the solution; to utilizing youth to reach out to other youth. In this way, the children who reach out are educated and empowered about sexual abuse and they are more socially conscious and less squeamish about sexual abuse than previous generations. Through them, we will break the age-old cycle. Also, many kids who have been sexually abused have learned to distrust adults and will trust messages from other kids more than they will those of adults. For these reasons, we believe youth are better messengers to sexually abused kids than adults. Messages that teens have created, and are disseminating on hundreds of social media pages, are written in kids’ language and banners kids have created appear now on thousands of kids’ (and adults’) Facebook and MySpace pages.
Just Tell Online
An important Internet presence already exists through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Our website JustTell.org receives hundreds of visits a week. Our Banner is also flying at teen concert promotional sites and online youth radio stations, and a number of young performers have signed up to be Teen Spokespeople.
Why Just Tell?
In a frequently quoted study, over 4,000 adults were asked if they were sexually abused as children. Child Sexual Abuse was reported by 27% of the women and 16% of the men. (1) From that study, and others like it, we can postulate that nearly one out of every three girls, and almost one out of every six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. And a number of studies that asked adults if they had told about the sexual abuse they suffered as children showed that fewer than half said they ever told anyone. The sexual abuse of our children has reached epidemic proportions, and too few of the child victims are telling anyone about it.
Clinical studies agree that revealing Childhood Sexual Abuse minimizes the psychic damage to the victim. “There is a clinical assumption that children who feel compelled to keep sexual abuse a secret suffer greater psychic distress than victims who disclose the secret and receive assistance and support” (2). “As long as disclosure continues to be a problem for young victims, then fear, suffering, and psychological distress will, like the secret, remain with the victim”. (3) Thus increasing disclosure is the key to minimalizing harm.
With dismal estimates of disclosure rates of child sexual abuse, and the known harm to children of keeping sexual abuse a secret, the need for change is obvious. We must change the culture of fear and secrecy in which the sexual abuse of kids continues unabated for generation after generation. Children need to be told that they are not alone, that is it not their fault, and that they need to choose a trusted adult and disclose the abuse. Clinicians we consulted with have seen this message effectively imparted to children and the positive effects of disclosure. Just Tell will duplicate on a mass scale what is already known to be effective with individual children.
If we reach a generation of children, we will create a paradigm shift in which childhood sexual abuse will no longer be a horrible secret borne in isolation. Instead of shame and self-blame, children will be freed to feel affronted by their abuser’s violation of the child’s body and mind, and will feel empowered to immediately choose a trusted adult and disclose the abuse. This will shorten the duration of individual children’s abuse, limit the physical, psychological and emotional damage caused by sexual abuse and stop perpetrators from victimizing multiple children. Revealing the abuse will set children free from years of possible guilt, shame, fear, anger and self-harm. Since many molesters were themselves molested, this paradigm shift can break the cycle and end childhood sexual abuse.
Hundreds of Just Tell’s of adult friends who are also adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse have written to confirm the need for our mission. They write saying that they wish Just Tell had been there when they were children and that although they did not disclose the abuse they suffered when they were children, they deeply wish they had.
The Just Tell Collaboration
In 2007 Vivian Farmery began the website project by entering into extensive consultations with social workers, pediatricians, police, psychologists and other professionals in the field of child abuse detection, reporting and treatment in order to discuss why children don’t reveal sexual abuse and how other professionals thought we could help increase reporting rates. The website content was written by Ms Farmery based on: extensive consultation with the major stakeholders in this issue-- including the previously mentioned professionals,-- adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, parents of sexually abused children, Just Tell’s two teams of Teen Advisors (one in NYC and one online) and her own extensive clinical, academic and personal experience with sexually abused children and their families.
How Does the Website Work?
At the core of our mission is the Just Tell website (www.JustTell.org). The website contains pages written especially for sexually abused children. We inform them about what sexual abuse is and isn’t, help them understand why they need to tell an adult if they have been sexually abused, assist them in choosing the adult in their life who they will tell, and talk to them about how to find the words to tell that adult about the abuse they are suffering.
The website includes the true examples from adults and teens who were sexually abused. These stories and excerpts are posted on our website in order to give kids other people’s stories to identify with. Although many of the stories were sent to Ms Farmery through the Just Tell MySpace page, others were originally published by the magazine Youth Communications.
Our website also includes pages for adults. These pages are designed to equip adults to be a trusted adult to whom a child can reveal abuse; to understand the issue and the importance of telling, and to know what to do if a child reveals sexual abuse to them. The website launch is anticipated for September 2008.
Just Tell’s Teen Advisory Groups
In order to get young people who have been molested to believe our message and use the resources offered by Just Tell, the visuals and our means of distributing our website contact information are all designed and created by the young people of Just Tell’s Teen Advisory Groups. The Advisory Groups consist of two groups of teens: one online, national, group and one comprised of teens in New York City High Schools.
The Wallet Cards
Just Tell’s teen volunteers take the message to other kids by distributing wallet-size cards bearing our 4 point message, our website address and our partner Hotline’s number. The wallet cards were designed by a 19 year old graffiti artist and graphics designer.
Just Tell’s Teen Advisory Groups devised the method of delivering the Wallet Cards and other materials which will inform kids about our website. The kids chose to call themselves Street Teams. Each Street Team self-organizes and decides where they wish to distribute the Wallet Cards and other promotional materials. Teens are spreading the word by distributing Wallet Cards at: concerts, school dances, parks, shopping malls and other places where kids congregate. At the time of this website re-launch in September 2011, over 135 Street Teams have been launched in 31 states. In addition, JustTell is invited to go along with the Van’s Warped Tour, a traveling music festival each summer where we reach up to 5,000 young people for each show we are able to attend.
Finkelhor & Brown, 1986
Sources: Bagley,1991, 1992; Finkelhor et al. 1990; Whitlock & Gillman, 1989