The idea of Darkness to Light was born and carefully cultivated long before its registration as a 501(c)3 nonprofit.
Over 25 years ago, a child sexual abuse crisis came to light and stirred up Charleston, SC. A small but passionate group of citizens came together and wondered why services were only available after a child was abused. They asked themselves a courageous question: “What can we do to prevent abuse and keep children safe?” Soon, they mobilized other community members to create an initiative around educating adults to protect children.
Holding yearly conferences called, “From Darkness to Light,” they began to elevate the voices and stories of adult survivors of child sexual abuse. This initial community advocacy laid the foundation for a new organization.
In 2000, Darkness to Light was officially born.
Our founders realized the need to combat the popular perspective that the way to stop sexual abuse is to teach children to protect themselves. When abuse is defined simply as a power dynamic in which a more powerful person forces themselves upon a less powerful person, educating children to protect themselves is insufficient on its own. The burden of prevention and protection must sit on the shoulders of adults who are legally and morally responsible for the health and safety of children.
These early advocates saw it essential to shift the paradigm of child sexual abuse prevention.
For the first few years, Darkness to Light focused on producing award-winning media campaigns that raised national awareness and encouraged adult survivors to break free of shame and blame. In 2005, after refining the mission to include adult education, Darkness to Light released the first iteration of our flagship training, Stewards of Children®.
Over the years, Stewards of Children® has been tested, proven, adapted, and awarded as an effective tool for positive community change. Our programs are the only evidence-informed, adult-focused child sexual abuse prevention trainings proven to increase knowledge and change behavior. Our work empowers adults and organizations to bring best-practices in child safety to their own communities.
Today, through a combination of research, education, and community advocacy, Darkness to Light uses a social behavior change approach to pioneer new training initiatives that bring child sexual abuse prevention to the attention of the broader cultural conversation. Here are just a few ways we do this:
- In 2005, Darkness to Light released the first iteration of their adult-focused prevention program, Stewards of Children®. Stewards of Children® 2.0 was released in 2013 and is an evidence-informed, award-winning training that teaches adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Through interviews with child sexual abuse survivors, experts, and treatment providers, Stewards of Children® teaches adults practical actions they can take to protect children. Trainings are offered both online and in-person; in-person trainings are comprised of a film and interactive discussions led by a Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitator.
- In 2018, Darkness to Light began a partnership with champion gymnast and survivor Aly Raisman. Together, we created the Flip the Switch Campaign, which calls on all adults (although particularly adults involved in youth sports) to get trained in Stewards of Children®. The #FlipTheSwitch campaign was inspired by the many people who voiced concern to Aly about the lack of support and attention being devoted to the issue of sexual abuse. While Aly’s experience was within the sport of gymnastics, she recognizes that children in all sports need to be protected from abuse. In two years, more than 8,000 adults were trained through Flip the Switch.
- From 2000 – 2015, Darkness to Light awarded prominent advocates for child protection the Voice of Courage Award. The Voice of Courage Award is a nationally recognized award given in recognition of individuals and organizations who have the heart to step forward and bring the topic of child sexual abuse to the forefront. Awardees included Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton, actress and playwright Eve Ensler, Miss American 1958 Marilyn Van Derbur, activist John Walsh, the late Beau Biden – Delaware Attorney General, the survivors who appear in Stewards of Children, actresses McKenzie Philips and Anne Heche, and survivor Matthew Sandusky. Corporate recipients include Time, Inc., Young & Rubicam, CNN, Volvo of North America and Redwoods Insurance Group.
- A social behavior change (SBC) approach informs Darkness to Light’s evidence-informed theory of change, The Prevention Paradigm for Child Sexual Abuse. In this new paradigm, adults throughout society actively prevent child sexual abuse within their spheres of influence. Social Behavior Change is a proven approach for enabling changes at individual, community, and societal levels to improve health and overall well-being.
- In 2017 we partnered with Crossroads Church and Jeevan Aadhar in Mumbai to develop our first international child sexual abuse prevention training, Baccho ke Sanrakshak. This is a version of Stewards of Children® designed for trainees in India. Filmed in Mumbai, the training utilizes research and statistics based on the Indian population and features Indian experts and survivors. Although contextualized to an Indian worldview and their specific community needs, this training is still based on the 5 Steps to Protecting Children™. Filming is ongoing and set to be completed in 2020.
- More people than ever per year are training their community members. 1.8 million adults in 76 countries have been trained by a network of 12,000 volunteer Authorized Facilitators and Certified Instructors. In 2019, 187,386 adults were trained in one of Darkness to Light’s six training programs. Highlights include:
- Megan Banet and Keita Cooley of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center trained the highest number of people per person, 13,000 adults and 11,000 adults respectively.
- 25% of all school personnel in Texas have been trained in partnership with the Texas Educators Agency
- In 2017, Darkness to Light began holding the IGNITE National Prevention conference, the first and only national child sexual abuse prevention conference in the U.S. Ignite brings together child advocates from all over the world. The conference will engage attendees to equip, strengthen, and organize their prevention initiatives, as well as provide advanced training, thought-provoking interaction sessions, and help individuals and organizations bring fresh ideas to their communities.
- Since 2011, more than 600 organizations have become Partners in Prevention. A Partner in Prevention is an organization or business that has committed the time and effort to educate themselves on how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. An organization receives the yearly Darkness to Light Partner in Prevention distinction when they have successfully met the requirements established by Darkness to Light, which include training 90% or more of all employees and volunteers, conducting routine background checks, and implementing child safety policies.
- Cities, counties, states and even countries have trained enough people to hit the “tipping point.” The tipping point theory, based on Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, suggests that once 5% of a population has a change in behavior the momentum for change becomes unstoppable. With this goal all adults would have the opportunity to learn how to protect the children in their care. Tipping Point milestones include:
- By 2019, SCARs Bermuda trained 20% of the country’s population, hitting tipping point for the nation four times over.
- The state of Delaware is 65% of the way toward tipping point, led by the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children. The state is projected to hit tipping point in 2020.
- Over 20 counties in Georgia have hit tipping point through the efforts of the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy
This year, we are celebrating these milestones and more, especially all the hard work accomplished over the last 20 years. Thank you. Your participation and initiative has changed the world for more children than we’ll ever fully realize. As our founders did before us, we still envision a world where child sexual abuse does not exist. We dream of the day that adults have formed prevention-oriented communities that protect children’s rights to a healthy childhood.
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