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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