Holding a “Breaking the Silence” Screening – Thoughts From a Facilitator

Categories: Guest Blog, Misc

“It was the easiest thing to do. It’s a natural way to introduce not only the issue of child sexual abuse to the community, but Stewards of Children® and Darkness to Light too.”

Tracy Leonard, SCAN of Northern Virginia

Tracy Leonard of SCAN shared with Darkness to Light about the successful screenings of Breaking the Silence that she conducted last month in the cities of Ashburn and Alexandria, Virginia. She felt that the events worked well because they were an excellent way to promote prevention education in her community, and to get commitments from key stakeholders in taking child protective action.

Using the screening kit provided by Darkness to Light as a starting point, Tracy really focused on building a strong coalition of partners to work with in the planning. With a network of facilitators that she meets with regularly, she already had a lot of buy in and community support for abuse prevention, which made the planning easy. Their first question was “Happy Valley or Breaking the Silence?” They decided on Breaking the Silence because it is community-focused and action-oriented, and in the end, that is really the message they wanted to get out.

Below is a brief interview that we conducted to find out more about her events.

D2L: Who did you invite?
TL: Everybody and anybody. We created fliers, emails and posted on Facebook. We did not use print posters or invitations, just electronic communications. We wanted to make sure that city government was invited, as well as educators and local legislators. Inviting members from those groups to sit on the panel was a good way to get those constituencies involved. Other people we invited were within each of the planning organizations’ own circles. For SCAN that included our own email lists, volunteers, past Stewards of Children® participants, and co-workers. Kind of everybody and anybody we could send it to. We also asked them to forward the invite. The one thing we didn’t do that we will do next time is to track who is coming. We positioned it as “just show up” but didn’t have a clear idea of who was actually going to show up. We weren’t sure how to manage it. Next time we’ll do an Eventbrite or find another way to get RSVPs.

D2L: How did you find your panelists?
TL: Through our work in Alexandria, we had four groups involved. We knew we wanted to have schools there, especially because there had been a high profile case and it was on people’s minds. We wanted Child Protective Services there. Candace Lopez from RAINN–who was in the movie and is one of SCAN’s board members–agreed to join us. We also wanted someone to represent the treatment side. Basically, we identified a bucket for the type of person that we wanted and then found someone to fill that role.

Great panelists can include school and CAC staff, CPS workers, or a pediatric emergency doctor. Our pediatrician added a lot to the healthy touch discussion. The Ashburn event also had Senator Jennifer Wexton, who tried to get Erin’s Law passed in Virginia. At the last minute she agreed to attend and that was fantastic.

D2L: What materials did you use at the event?
TL: We used the “Learn the Facts” rack card. We printed off stickers and put them on the back with an action checklist and then had someone bring attention to them. On the front we put a post-it note. At the end of the panel discussion we asked them to write an action that they would take on the post-it note and then share that on an “action wall.”   Ashburn was a smaller event so we didn’t push that activity as much, but in Alexandria we did and 30-40 people did it.

D2L: What was on the checklist that you added to the back of the rack card?
TL: We printed a checklist sticker with things you could do. They included:

  • Sign up for Stewards of Children®
  • Tell people about the film
  • Support our work through volunteering, sponsorship, donation
  • Contribute to a workshop scholarship (mandated reporter training)
  • Share a child sexual abuse prevention fact sheet
  • Invite us to come and speak to faith communities

Then we had the post-it note on the other side.

D2L: What did you do to try and capture more interest in Stewards of Children®?
TL: We had a “Sign Up for Stewards of Children® Desk” in Alexandria. The smaller event just had a “give us your name and we’ll email you about it” sheet.

D2L: Did you know who attendees were?
TL: Yes, we captured names and email addresses and then emailed them after the event with a survey. We asked questions like “How did you hear about it?”, “What did you learn?”, and “How are you going to break the silence?” Both events had a smattering of who was invited and some people told us “you are preaching to the choir” but everyone left with a new piece of information and an action to take. Bikers Against Child Abuse were at both events being ushers and handing out materials. Additionally, CEUSs were arranged so professional and service members attended as well.

D2L: What fact sheets and rack cards could you use in the future that we don’t currently have?
TL: We don’t need a lot because one of SCAN’s big areas is public education. We do a child abuse prevention campaign and we make a lot of original materials.  For example, we get a lot of questions about teens and sexuality – sexting specifically – and that came out of a facilitator meeting.

One thing that could be helpful is “Normal Healthy Sexual Development” which would be great as a rack card. It is now on the back of the module for healthy touch but a tangible, quicker read would be excellent.

D2L: Was there anything else that you created for the event?
TL: Some of the companion materials to complement the kit were:

  • A community resource guide/sheet so that people knew who to call for help in our community of Northern Virginia.
  • Brief program (one-page front and back) with bios of panelists as well as the missions of each organization that partnered with SCAN.


We hope that Tracy’s feedback can help give you the confidence to have an event of your own. Download the screening kit and don’t hesitate to reach out to the Darkness to Light team for questions about how to plan your event.

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