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April 2012Vol. 13, No. 3Perceptions of Abuse, Neglect

A recent study revealed that while most Hawaiians believe child abuse and neglect is a serious issue, many are unsure how to identify the signs of abuse. Additionally, a majority of residents said that knowing they could report child abuse and neglect anonymously increased the likelihood they would do so.

The Hawaii Children's Trust Fund and the Joyful Heart Foundation conducted the study to gauge citizens' perceptions and understanding of and level of concern about child abuse and neglect. Between June 28 and July 20, 2010, more than 700 residents from every Hawaiian county and a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds were surveyed via telephone. To ensure a representative sample, 20 percent of the final sample were residents without landlines.

The survey revealed that:

  • Nearly 40 percent of residents know someone who was abused or neglected.
  • About 9 percent of citizens have personally experienced abuse or neglect.
  • Nearly 65 percent of residents said it was "difficult" or "somewhat difficult" to spot the signs of abuse.
  • While 75 percent said they would talk to someone if they suspected a child they did not know was being abused, only 11 percent would talk to a social service agency and 5 percent would talk to child welfare services. Most residents would talk to their own family and friends.  
  • Nearly 90 percent of residents said knowing they could report suspected child abuse or neglect anonymously made them more likely to report it.

These results laid the foundation for a public awareness campaign to raise understanding about the signs of abuse, reporting suspected abuse, tips for strengthening families, and more. Hinged on the study's findings that residents are more likely to speak to friends, family members, and colleagues if they suspect a child is being abused, the One Strong Ohana campaign aims to inspire open conversation about abuse and neglect. The campaign forms community partnerships to educate residents about appropriate responses to suspected child abuse or neglect. Its website features a number of resources for parents and caregivers, community members, and service providers.

The study, Perceptions of Child Abuse and Neglect in Hawaii, is available on the Joyful Heart Foundation's website: (2 MB)

More information on the One Strong Ohana campaign is available on the Hawaii Children's Trust Fund website: