Joyful Heart in the News

Poll on child abuse finds isle residents hold misconceptions

July 18th, 2011
Honolulu Star Advertiser
Gene Park

In Hawaii, 64 percent of residents have difficulty recognizing child abuse, and 2 out of 3 would report abuse to Child Welfare Services if the child is a stranger.

This is according to an unprecedented statewide study, released today, jointly commissioned by the Hawaii Children's Trust Fund and the Joyful Heart Foundation.

"We asked ourselves how we're going to engage the community," said Maile Zambuto, Joyful Heart's chief executive officer, based in New York. "When we tried to find research about perceptions, we couldn't find it. We knew so much more about public perceptions in the mainland."

Armed with the study, both groups plan to launch a statewide awareness campaign — dubbed One Strong Ohana — by the end of the year. It will consist of public service announcements, online and community outreach, events, training sessions for service providers and media spots.

"The Trust Fund has committed over $1 million in funding for this initiative, and Joyful Heart is working to engage private-sector support, enlist influential local leaders to join the coalition and engage social media to expand the reach of the campaign," Zambuto, who is from Hawaii, said by telephone. "We need to turn up the volume on this critical issue."

The Hawaii Children's Trust Fund was established in 1993 to prevent child abuse. Since then it has awarded $6.6 million to support almost 150 programs and projects across the state.

Joyful Heart, which has offices in New York and Hawaii, was founded in 2004 by television actress Mariska Hargitay of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

The survey was conducted by Ward Research, polling 703 residents age 18 and up.

About 39 percent of residents said they knew a victim of child abuse, and 80 percent of them consider it a major problem in the state. Also, 9 percent said they have experienced abuse.

The survey also reveals that about 76 percent believe that spanking a child is an acceptable disciplinary practice.

Other findings: 

» Eighty-one percent of residents hold the false belief that the person who reports child abuse will be involved in the case.

» Seventy-six percent hold the false belief that children can be taken out of their home once the call is made;.

» Sixty-seven percent would report child abuse if they are not acquainted with the child in question.

» Fifty-eight percent fear retribution from the family if they report abuse.

» Forty-five percent said they believe children can do things to prevent abuse.

 "There's so much shame, and I think people either didn't feel comfortable saying they were abused or they're uncomfortable telling people they know that this has happened to them, and that's really what we want to change," Zambuto said. "We didn't have a sense of what the prevalence was and what people were willing to disclose."


CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly said 2 out of 3 people would not report child abuse to Child Welfare Services if the child is a stranger.

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