Designing the Statewide Survey
One of the challenges we face throughout the life of this Campaign is the ability to, in real-time, observe and respond to data and circumstances with the potential to shift the course of action. Doing so requires that we remain open to new ideas, be nimble and able to adapt, pivoting our efforts as needed. One such pivot happened in early Spring of 2018.
We began thinking we could collect data via a relatively inexpensive, straightforward survey using a basic market research approach, the results of which we thought would suffice to help us craft our Campaign messages.
After following a suggestion from Tom Emling, TBCAC supporter and long-time MSU North Community Partners Regional Director, to consult with experts at the Michigan State University (MSU) Office of Survey Research (OSR), we quickly understood that this simpler form of survey would be inadequate. In order to capture the diversity and depth of voices throughout Michigan, and to garner data that meets academic research standards, we knew we had to partner with OSR to engage in a much more rigorous process.
To begin, we conducted 13 listening sessions in the six counties the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center (TBCAC) serves, as well as one in the Sovereign Nation of the Grand Traverse Band, asking questions such as:
Do you think child sexual abuse is a problem here in your community?
Do you think you and your neighbors would know what to do when you are facing a situation in which you suspect child sexual abuse?
As a society, are there things we think or do (perhaps subconsciously) that create an atmosphere in which child sexual abuse is MORE likely to occur?
As a society, are there things we think or do—or attitudes that are broadly held—that create an atmosphere in which child sexual abuse is LESS likely to occur?
What would a world without abuse look like? If you had a magic wand and you could make child sexual abuse disappear tomorrow, how would that happen?
Who would you trust to be a spokesperson on why it’s important to prevent child sexual abuse? Why would you trust that person?
We heard that people struggle with the enormity of the problem and can become overwhelmed just thinking about it. We learned that people think child sexual abuse can be prevented to some extent, but many had trouble imagining “a world without abuse.” Often the conversations would slip into intervention strategies rather than staying upstream with prevention.
Concurrently, we conducted numerous interviews with professionals who had run public will campaigns or whose work intersected with aspects of child sexual abuse.
An executive director of an early childhood foundation,
A judge and the founder of Girl’s Court in Genesee County,
A staff member at Truckers Against Trafficking,
Two violence researchers at MSU,
A staff attorney with Farmworkers Legal Services, and many others.
Each interview increased our understanding and served to inform the difficult work of designing a survey instrument that would get to the heart of why child sexual abuse occurs and what we can do to prevent it.
Thanks to the guidance of Dr. Dennis Martell, the Executive Director of the National Social Norms Center at MSU and Principal Investigator for the statewide survey, the survey instrument is now in the final stages of development. It will shortly be submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at MSU. Once approved, OSR will pilot the survey in Manistee County (selected because its demographics are similar to the Grand Traverse region, but it sits outside of TBCAC’s primary service area). Once the pilot is completed, we anticipate learning a great deal from the results that will help inform the final design of the survey which will be administered in the six counties.
Features of the survey include:
A second pilot downstate while the survey is in the field in TBCAC’s six counties. This pilot will be conducted in preparation for a broader, statewide survey.
The survey will be administered in three modalities: mail, phone and internet.
The survey will be translated into Spanish and Arabic.
Dr. Martell and the experts at OSR have suggested the possibility of doing several waves of follow-up surveys to test messaging and measure progress over the next several years.
This comprehensive, iterative approach to data collection and analysis is essential to accurately inform and develop the Social Norms approach of our Public Will Campaign. Once all pilot, primary and follow-up surveys are completed and data analyzed, we will craft Campaign messaging that will be designed to align and resonate with various and diverse populations around the state… and beyond.
Our plan is that this core messaging will help drive a larger grass-roots network to prevent child sexual abuse. Additionally, professionals and academics both here in Michigan and around the country have expressed interest in viewing the survey data and further collaborating with us and this Campaign moving forward.
Both of these strategies – developing a grassroots network and generating broader research interest – will aid in sustaining a long-term campaign which doesn’t fizzle after the first few years but cultivates lasting change to make child sexual abuse rare and non-recurring in our lifetime.