Best of the Best: The Bystander Effect, with Dr. Wendy Walsh

Season 2Episode 13July 2, 2020

In this rebroadcast of a popular episode, When schools shut down during the pandemic, one consequence was kids isolated at home, making it more important for all of us to report suspected abuse. Why do people hesitate?

We’re taking a short summer break and re-airing several of our most popular episodes that are especially relevant in light of current events. First up: the pandemic. When schools shut down to help slow the spread of the virus, one of the consequences was kids isolated at home, away from the teachers and other professionals who are most likely to spot the signs of abuse and take action. In 2018, more than two-thirds of reports to child abuse hotlines came from people who had contact with kids as part of their job. What’s good for public health isn’t always good for the safety of an individual child. Across the country, reports of abuse dropped dramatically. That doesn’t mean the abuse stopped. It just disappeared behind closed doors.

That makes it even more crucial that people in the community, like us, speak up when we believe a child is in danger. But, far too often, we hesitate. Before we can persuade our friends and neighbors to report suspected abuse, we have to understand why they don’t. One of our very first guests on One in Ten was Wendy Walsh, of the Crimes Against Children Research Center. Listen again as we explore the issues and the policies and practices that could help us keep children safe.

Topics in this episode:

  • Why don’t people speak up? (3:30)
  • Are people aware they should report suspected abuse? (7:20)
  • At the heart of people’s concerns about reporting abuse (10:52)
  • Negative perceptions about child protective services (13:16)
  • The SHINE Campaign (17:20)
  • Research priorities, and barriers to research (18:50)
  • Universal mandatory reporting (23:50)
  • What needs to change? (25:34)
  • Catching kids falling through the cracks (28:08)
  • The one takeaway (30:31)


Wendy A. Walsh, Ph.D., is a research assistant professor of sociology at the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire

The statistic about who reports abuse is from Child Maltreatment 2018 at

Granite State Children’s AllianceKNOW AND TELL program

SHINE Campaign on Facebook and on Instagram

Transcript to come.