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Published in Print: April 14, 1999, as Children & Families

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Children & Families

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Child Abuse: The United States has become a safer place for everyone except children, says a new study from a child-advocacy group.

Between 1993 and 1997, the nation's overall crime rate decreased 22 percent, while the rate of child abuse and neglect increased 4 percent, A. Sidney Johnson III, the executive director of the Chicago-based Prevent Child Abuse America, said late last month in releasing the study.

The group, formerly known as the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, released the data at a Washington news conference last month.

The group's event in Washington coincided with the effort to launch a "child-abuse prevention" month. The main goal of the April observance is to increase public awareness about child abuse and neglect and to get more adults involved in efforts to protect children.

"American children are at greater risk in their own homes than on the street," Mr. Johnson said. "As a society, we're making great progress in reducing violent crime, property crime and robbery ... yet our children are being victimized more than ever."

For every 1,000 children, there were 47 reported cases of child abuse or neglect in 1997, and of those, 15 per 1,000 were confirmed, the group's study says. In comparison, there were 13 car thefts, eight aggravated assaults, 4.2 robberies, and 1.5 rapes per 1,000 U.S. households in 1998.

Though most children abused in the United States are of school age, only about 16 percent of all cases each year come from reports by teachers and other school staff members, officials at PCAA said.

"A lot more training is needed" for educators, Mr. Johnson said.

Three in 10 Americans have witnessed an adult physically abuse a child, and two in three have seen an adult emotionally abuse a child, the report says. Yet, the report adds, nearly half of those adults witnessing such abuse failed to respond to the incident.

PCAA, known for its public-awareness, education, and prevention programs, as well as its advocacy and research work, launched a public service campaign this month in an effort to help prevent child abuse. Several television and radio spots featuring children are being aired across the country to help raise awareness of the subject.

For copies of the group's study, "Current Trends in Child Abuse Reporting and Fatalities: The Results of the 1997 Annual Fifty State Survey," write to: PCAA, 200 S. Michigan Ave., 17th Floor, Chicago, IL 60604, Attn: 50 State Survey.

--Karen L. Abercrombie kaber@epe.org.

Vol. 18, Issue 31, Page 6

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