Friday, March 13, 2015

Public relation campaign for child abuse prevention

A public relation campaign to prevent child abuse would be a major step in the right direction. In order to reduce child abuse in the most effective way possible it will take as much cooperation from the public as possible. Teachers and social workers can’t be everywhere and many people don’t understand how much damage child abuse does in the long run. Most people see the immediate result but fail to see the long term damage that child abuse does. In order to do this in the most effective way possible it must be done in a educational manner not a manner that appeals to emotion and leads people to rush into something and overreact. This means avoid using the hype and disgust that the demagogues like Nancy Grace and Geraldo Rivera use.

A good public relations campaign will accomplish at least two different things, it will inform the public how much damage child abuse does so that people will realize how important it is and it will provide the public with some ideas about how to fix the problem.

The first step would involve informing the public that most if not all violent felons suffered from violent upbringing. It could also involve informing the public that abuse leads to bullying and delinquency at school. Abuse is a major cause for school drop outs and many other problems. In most cases the cause and effect isn’t immediate but there is an enormous amount of research available to prove that it is real. This could involve letting the public know where more information could be found on the subject. There are many books in the library on this subject if you care to take a look and also plenty of web sites.

The second step could involve informing the public about programs that have been proven to help prevent violence and let the public know how to participate in them. There are plenty of child care organizations that could help participate in these programs. This should start on the least controversial programs since that is the most effective way to get something done while further discussion goes on. In some cases even the least controversial programs may meet resistance until the public understands them better. If this is the case it will help to make the case with as well organized information as possible. It is important to help prevent abuse as soon as possible. Rehabilitating children after they have been abused has proven much more difficult than preventing the abuse in the first place. In some cases it may even be impossible. For example if you don’t start the rehabilitation until the abused child becomes a violent adult it will be much tougher. Informing the public that the most effective programs start at as young an age as possible and maintain some prevention activity. Letting the public know where to get involved so that they can help stop violence will be a big help since many people care about the subject but don’t know what to do to help. One example of a very effective program that may help is the child visitor program. The way this works is that when at risk mothers seek prenatal medical care the people at the hospital offer to let them participate. They will receive visits from a nurse or social worker who receives basic training and helps with simple child care chores and provides advice and counseling. This has proven to be very effective and it doesn’t involve much if any conflict which may occur if they wait until the abuse occurs. Unfortunately there are penny wise and pound foolish people who don’t understand this program so they resist it. It is important to explain to the public how this work and ho effective it is so they understand it is much better than building more prisons.

The media can be a very important help with a good public relations campaign but unfortunately if they wanted to help address this problem they probably already would have done a better job of it. They may still help address it more if they receive a little encouragement. In the meantime there can be a grass roots movement to inform people about the subject through community organizations like the PTA and many other organizations as well as on-line organization to inform the public. A good grass roots organization could be part of an effort to obtain cooperation from both politicians and the Mass Media. By setting a good example at the grass roots level and pointing out that the Mass Media may not be up to par it may encourage them to change. Another way to help would be to inform the public about how counter productive the typical demagoguery used by the Mass Media is. When someone from the media demonizes criminals and inspires hatred it only increases the level of emotions and distracts people from real solutions. The most effective way to stop violence involves controlling emotions and improving efforts to find rational education based solutions.

If the Mass Media doesn’t do a better job addressing this subject and many others it would be very helpful to create more interest in alternative media. With the availability of the internet there is an opportunity to create a much better media at least from the editorial point of view. Research and investigation will be tougher since they require a bigger budget but much of the work is already available at libraries and existing organizations. The creation of a better alternative media and informing the public about how the Mass Media receives preferential treatment by using the airwaves at no cost and very little input from the public could help elect more sympathetic politicians and create better laws to help develop a more fair mass media policy with more input from the public.

First posted on Tripod on 09/09/2009

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The following are the original replies when this was first posted on Open Salon.

I love all your ideas and think they would work for one tenth of the cost of this war. This sounds great although I don't know what will be left of our social welfare system. I wrote Oprah several years ago suggesting a media campaign telling the general public about child development. For example, a 3 month old can't be spoiled and is not trying to make you made, telling people exactly what a 2 year old knows and can intend to do, etc. A lot of child abuse comes from having no clue what children are capable of at each stage. Never heard back, but I'd still like to see it. Great post. Thank you.

Janice Wood January 22, 2011 11:00 AM

Great post and great ideas Zack. I read an article where over 90% of the men in prison were abused, mainly by their fathers. People under estimate the effect a father figure has on a child. With over 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce with the kids going to the mother the majority of the time, I can see why the jails are full!

scanner January 22, 2011 11:16 AM

Janice, Scanner, we need more education and less incarceration. There are plenty of good educators that know a lot about how to improve child rearing, this was advanced dramatically by Benjamin Spock and now there are others like Barbara Coloroso, James Garbarino, Joanne Scaglione continuing with improved advice but the Media is paying little or no attention.

zacherydtaylor January 22, 2011 11:20 AM

Zack, part of that campaign absolutely must include information on the resources available when a child is abused so that parents are not left wandering alone in the desert trying to figure out what they are supposed to do now. Far too often today when a child is abused, be it by a stranger or by someone the child knows, the parents and the child are turned loose on their own in a stormy sea without so much as a pair of water wings and they are left to "sink or swim" on their own. This is not "good" for either the parents or the children.

For instance: the public does not know that protective services is required by law to provide, free of charge, up to five years of counseling to both the parents and the child. The purpose of this counseling is three-fold. First it helps the child to process and deal with what happened to them. Second it teaches the parents alternative ways to deal with their children when they are acting in ways that are inappropriate. Third it benefits society as a whole because children who are provided with counseling following abuse are much less likely to visit abuse on others.

MrsRaptor January 22, 2011 12:04 PM

Mrs. Raptor, this is true and it is important to let the public know how effective some of these resources are. In many cases these programs are being demonized in their entirety and targeted for cuts. This will only make things worse. If the public knows which ones work and why they can expand them and cut only those that aren’t working. It is much cheaper to put resources into these programs than to wait and spend on prisons.

zacherydtaylor January 22, 2011 12:42 PM

Zack... programs that work *best* for very young children or those who are not as verbal due to things such as autism and deafness include something called "Play Therapy," which allows the child to work through much of the trauma and helps to give them the words to express themselves in appropriate ways.

A combination of play therapy and more traditional counseling services works well, in my experience, with children who are verbal but still working on understanding the nuances of language. The play portion allows them to learn the context of the words and the traditional therapy allows them to begin "processing" (although technically that is not the right word for it) what happened to them.

I have had, to date, 11 years of counseling working through what was done to my children (now almost 18 year old twins) and how to best help them and myself move forward with out lives. The sad thing was that immediately after the court case closed protective services cut us loose, as though we were so much flotsam and jetsam, with absolutely no real help other than the abuser being out of our lives. The night, about a month later, that I woke up about 0300 and found my son standing over me with a butcher knife and looking at me like he had never seen me before was the night that I said "There HAS to be some HELP for us out there somewhere and I am going to FIND it!" I hit the internet and started researching and a few days later discovered on my own that social services was required by law to provide counseling to the kids and I for at least 5 years. The morning after I made that discovery I was back at social services *demanding* that they provide the HELP that my children and I desperately needed.

I must admit that I have kind of made it my personal "mission" to inform parents of abused children that there ARE services available to HELP them and their children AND that social services is required by law to provide those services necessary to putting your life back together and moving on.

MrsRaptor January 22, 2011 01:06 PM

I don’t doubt you but I have heard of many others and they may apply to different situations. Generally speaking I suspect those that help earlier and use non punitive measures that educate the parents probably work best. It would help if the Media gave the bully pulpit to those with the appropriate experience instead of political hacks or "experts" that adopt the desired belief of the hacks.

zacherydtaylor January 22, 2011 01:30 PM

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