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Fifty percent of Americans do nothing when they witness abuse

New Study by Prevent Child Abuse America Reveals Alarming Trends in How Americans Respond to Child Abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Three in ten Americans have witnessed an adult physically abuse a child and two in three Americans have seen an adult emotionally abuse a child (see table 1). Yet nearly half of these Americans failed to respond to the incident, according to a study released today by Prevent Child Abuse America, formerly the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse.Of the 1,250 Americans surveyed, 44 percent failed to respond upon observing child abuse, with one-half of these individuals reporting that they had no idea how to respond effectively (see table 2). Of those who claimed to have done something in response to the situation, 55 percent reported that they had given the offending adult a disapproving look and 63 percent claimed to have verbally reprimanded the adult. According to Prevent Child Abuse America, these responses can be counterproductive and may further endanger the child.

“The research shows that most Americans fail to respond effectively when they encounter child abuse or neglect in a public place because they don’t know what to do,” explained A. Sidney Johnson III, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse America. “Clearly, there is a need to give all citizens the information they need to respond to these situations in a helpful, effective and safe manner.”

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To educate the general public on appropriate and effective responses to child abuse in a public place, Prevent Child Abuse America has launched a new public service campaign. The campaign includes brochures and posters offering advice on positive parenting and on how to respond effectively when observing child abuse or neglect in a public place.

With funding from Target Stores, a longtime supporter of the organization’s child abuse prevention programs, the materials are being distributed through Prevent Child Abuse America’s nationwide network of chapters, offering the following tips for responding to child abuse or neglect in a public place:

Start a conversation with the adult to direct attention away from the child. For example: “My child gets upset like that, too.”
Divert the child’s attention (if misbehaving) by talking to the child.
Look for an opportunity to praise the child or parent.
If the child is in danger, offer assistance.
Avoid negative remarks or looks, which are likely to increase the parent’s anger and could make matters worse.

New Identity for Nation’s Leading

Child Abuse Prevention Organization

The public service campaign is part of a major effort to communicate the new name for Prevent Child Abuse America, which has previously been known as the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse. With 27 years of experience and a network of 42 state chapters, Prevent Child Abuse America is the leading organization working at the national, state and local levels to prevent child abuse in all its forms.

In addition to educating the public about effective responses to child abuse, the campaign is intended to better communicate the nationwide breadth of Prevent Child Abuse America’s capabilities and the depth of its commitment to end child abuse. The announcement of the organization’s new name and public service campaign came on the eve of April’s observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Previously, the national organization and its chapters had not followed any standardized model in the use of name or logo, confounding efforts to demonstrate nationwide unity of the organization, its capabilities and its mission. Prevent Child Abuse America had determined that improved clarity of its national identity and heightened awareness of its capabilities could further strengthen its efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect.

“Prevent Child Abuse America – as a national organization and as a network of state chapters – brings an incredible breadth of knowledge and capabilities to the prevention of child abuse and neglect,” said Maura Somers Dughi, president of the Board of Directors for Prevent Child Abuse America. “Under our new national identity, it will be easier to demonstrate the strength and value of this knowledge and these capabilities on the local, state and national levels.”

Twenty-six state chapters have already changed their names to reflect the national organization’s model, as in the case of Prevent Child Abuse California, Prevent Child Abuse Illinois and Prevent Child Abuse New York. Ten other chapters are expected to change their names in the next six months.

New TV and Radio Awareness Campaign Launched

In conjunction with the organization’s new name, Prevent Child Abuse America is launching a nationwide campaign of television and radio public service announcements. The energetic and uplifting television spots feature children speaking directly into the camera to offer their thoughts on “What Kids Are Made Of.” Complementary radio spots have also been produced. Both television and radio spots are being distributed nationally by the Advertising Council.

The media campaign has been adapted from one originally developed by the Partnership to Prevent Child Abuse, a Connecticut alliance of public and private concerns dedicated to empowering and educating communities and individuals to recognize the vital role they play in child abuse prevention. The partnership includes the Connecticut Center for Prevention of Child Abuse, a chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America.

The spots were produced by Cronin and Company, Inc., of Glastonbury, Conn., which donated its time as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. Response to the campaign was so strong throughout the state, that the Connecticut chapter and its advertising agency, in collaboration with the Partnership to Prevent Child Abuse, approached Prevent Child Abuse America about national distribution.

“We were impressed and thrilled by our Connecticut chapter’s television and radio spots from the very start and couldn’t have been happier to adapt them for use nationally,” said Johnson. “Our chapters are producing incredibly powerful and creative public awareness materials, and we’re pleased to be able to work with our chapters whenever possible to share these great materials with the rest of the country.”

Headquartered in Chicago, Prevent Child Abuse America was founded in 1972 with an endowment from the Donna J. Stone Foundation and is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse in all its forms. Supported by private and corporate donors, the organization is widely known for its public awareness, education, prevention programs, advocacy and research. More information about child abuse prevention is available by calling 1-800-CHILDREN or by accessing the organization’s website, www.childabuse.org.

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Table 1: Personal Observations of Child Abuse and Neglect

Observations of Child Abuse or Neglect

Percentage Responding in the Affirmative

Have you seen an adult physically abuse a child?

32%

Have you seen an adult emotionally abuse a child (e.g., insult, taunt or harass)?

66%

Have you seen an adult neglect a child (e.g., ignore a child’s needs, fail to feed or clothe properly or withhold affection)?

47%

Source: Kirkpatrick, Kevin (1999, March). 1999 Public Awareness Survey. Chicago: Prevent Child Abuse America.

Table 2: Reasons for Failing to Respond to Observations of Child Abuse and Neglect

Reasons for Failing to Respond

Percentage Responding in the Affirmative

Didn’t think it was any of my business

57%

Didn’t know what the proper response might be

50%

Afraid other people might interpret response as overreacting

23%

Concerned for own personal safety

19%

Thought the parent’s actions might be justified

17%

Source: Kirkpatrick, Kevin (1999, March). 1999 Public Awareness Survey. Chicago: Prevent Child Abuse America.

Copyright ©2000 Prevent Child Abuse America. All rights reserved.
200 S. Michigan Avenue, 17th Floor, Chicago, IL 60604-2404
phone 312-663-3520; fax 312-939-8962

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