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OCAPS FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about the Oregon Child Abuse Prevalence Study – Engaging Youth for Change

 

Preguntas Frecuentes Acerca del Estudio de Prevalencia de Abuso Infantil en Oregón están disponibles aquí.  

 

 

 

 


What is the goal of the Oregon Child Abuse Prevalence Study (OCAPS)?

The Oregon Child Abuse Prevalence Study is designed to more accurately measure rates of child abuse and neglect in Oregon – and to track changes over time. This will help Oregonians to direct resources where they are most likely to be helpful, and to determine whether we are making progress toward a shared goal of safety and well-being for children and youth in our communities.

 

OCAPS is the first child abuse prevalence study of its kind in the U.S. and will make it possible, for the first time, to much more accurately answer important questions. As it stands today, Oregonians cannot accurately answer any of the following questions:

 

  • How many Oregon children and youth have been physically and sexually abused? How many endure chronic neglect?
  • How many Oregon children have seen and heard abuse by one adult caregiver toward another?
  • Are rates of child abuse and neglect higher or lower today than they were 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago?
  • Have recent state investments reduced child abuse and neglect in Oregon?
  • What are the most important factors that reduce the negative impact of abuse and trauma?
  • What do Oregon youth recommend as the most important steps toward child abuse prevention?
     

OCAPS is designed to answer these questions, among others.

 

Students must be at least 16 years old to participate.

 

 

 


Are sensitive questions asked?

Yes, many sensitive and personal questions are asked. OCAPS includes direct questions about child sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, seeing or hearing intimate partner violence (domestic violence), and neglect.

 

Participating in the study is optional and students can skip any questions they choose. Students and their parents/guardians are informed at least 2 weeks in advance about the study. The study announcement includes clear information about the purpose of the study and the kinds of questions that are asked. In this way, students and their parents/guardians make an informed decision about participating.

 

 

 

Does asking questions about trauma trigger traumatic memories? Is it upsetting to participate in a study like this?

Yes, being asked questions about trauma and abuse can be triggering – it can jog painful memories for survivors of abuse and neglect. It can also be upsetting to read through a questionnaire about abuse and trauma for youth who have not themselves experienced mistreatment of this kind. For these reasons, participating is optional and we determine a plan with each school for support of student participants.

 

Prior to the study our team meets face to face with school personnel. We create a school-specific plan for student support and, for clarity of purpose and roles, sign a Memorandum of Understanding between our research team and each school. On the day of the study, our research team acknowledges and affirms that participating in the study can be difficult and upsetting. We explain our reasons for conducting the study, remind students that participating is optional, and share with them the resources that are available to them following their participation. These resources include pre-determined and supportive school personnel, a list of local resources, and national websites and anonymous phone support lines. Additionally, our team brings to the school a supportive, trained adult who – in a private space in the school building -- will compassionately listen to students who choose that kind of support.

 

Additionally, we piloted this study in Lane County, Oregon, with 216 students in 6 high schools across 5 rural and urban districts. During this pilot, we asked students how they felt immediately following the survey:

  • 15% felt upset or sad
  • 43% felt neutral
  • 15% felt inspired
  • 26% felt hopeful
  • 39% felt “supported or validated because people are learning about child abuse”

 

As a part of the pilot, we also talked with students immediately following their participation. Overwhelmingly, students supported the study and shared with us that they believe – although child abuse is difficult and a kind of taboo topic – it is important to more fully learn about it. Many students urged us to respect their experiences by translating the findings of this study into local action. One student reflected the feeling and thinking of many:

 

“Since we’re giving you the information, I think it would be very useful if you used it to your max potential, and do as much as you can with the information as you possibly can – in every way that you can.”

 

 

 


People don’t necessarily remember what happened to them early in life – or might not take the study seriously. How do we know whether the results are accurate?

A study of this kind can’t likely ever be perfectly accurate. Instead, this is an effort to get much closer to accurate rates of child abuse and neglect than we have today. And, certainly, a 17-year-old may not recall a traumatic event that happened when they were 2 years old. One key way to get much closer to accurate information is to ask specific, behavioral questions. For example, instead of asking a question like “Were you ever sexually abused?” we ask “Has anyone ever touched your private parts in a sexual way, or made you touch theirs, when you didn’t want them to?”

 

We believe that most students take this study seriously and do their best to answer the questions accurately. This seems to be true, also, for parents and guardians. In our pilot, fewer than 3% of parents and guardians opted their child out of the study. And, fewer than 5% of students opted out. Additionally, students shared with us that the study – and in particular its purpose – was important to them.

 

In short, we have found that when we as a research team take this survey seriously and share it in an authentic way with students, they take it seriously, too. We believe that youth are the best source of their own experiences. We also believe that youth have unique and effective insights into reducing the problem of child abuse and neglect. Our attitudes, we believe, increase students’ personal investment in OCAPS.

 

 

 


How will my child’s and my family's privacy be protected?

OCAPS is anonymous. We don’t ask for first or last names or any specific information that could identify a student participant. All OCAPS reports will combine information in a way that has no way of revealing personal information. And, one important exception: Our research team members are mandatory reporters for child abuse and neglect. This is true also for school personnel. For this reason, we both verbally right before students participate in the study, and in writing as a part of the assent process, inform students that if they choose to type in their name and report a history of child abuse and/or neglect, we might be required to report this to child protective services. Although no situation during our pilot required this, we do our best to notify students in advance so they can make an informed choice to share their name with us. We at no time ask for participant’s names. However, if in the unlikely situation that a student discloses their name and an abuse history, we follow school policy and Oregon law.

 

 

 


Will any students be tracked and surveyed again to see how abuse and neglect rates change over time?

No, we don’t survey any one person more than once. OCAPS, pending funding support, will sample a new group of students across Oregon every 3 years. Doing this every 3-years is important because it will allow Oregonians to track trends/changes over time.

 

 

 


How was the OCAPS survey developed?

OCAPS is a combination of several questionnaires that have been used in the U.S. and other countries and specific questions constructed by the University of Oregon’s research team at The Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect. The survey, which includes 190 questions and is completed one time by student participants during one class period, was first tested with University of Oregon students, then revised and piloted with Lane County high school students.

 

 

 


Who participates in OCAPS?

OCAPS is designed for Oregon high school students who are at least 16 years old. Schools that participate are randomly selected in a way that ensures representation of students from all over Oregon – urban, rural and frontier parts of our state. In total at this time, OCAPS includes about 60 schools and 2,200 students.

 

 

 


What does OCAPS measure?

OCAPS research questions include, among others: 

  • How many Oregon children and youth have been physically and sexually abused? How many endure chronic neglect?
  • How many Oregon children have seen and heard abuse by one adult caregiver toward another?
  • What are the current rates of child abuse and neglect? (setting a baseline upon which to compare 2020 prevalence compared to 2025, 2030, etc.)
  • Have recent state investments reduced child abuse and neglect in Oregon?
  • What are the most important factors that reduce the negative impact of abuse and trauma?
  • What do Oregon youth recommend as the most important steps toward child abuse prevention?
  • How are child abuse and neglect rates different/similar by income, among rural and urban Oregonians, by race, gender, foster care status – and its impact on school attendance, grades, risk behaviors, and health.
  • How does social support, social connection, and neighborhood support buffer the negative impact of abuse?
  • What do Oregon youth believe that they and their friends most need when abuse happens and their recommendations to prevent abuse and neglect in our communities.

 

 

 


How are OCAPS findings used?

OCAPS findings will be shared broadly across Oregon. We will work with a “data visualization specialist” to ensure that our findings are clear and presented in a meaningful way for community members. Our goal is to ensure that the findings are accessible to all Oregonians. We will share our findings broadly and in multiple formats, including for instance social media, e-lists, newsprint, magazines and research journals. Additionally, when we report our findings, which will draw attention to the problem of child abuse and neglect in Oregon, we will also simultaneously provide practical individual and community-based solutions and prevention opportunities.

 

OCAPS is one part of an effort to change the social norms and circumstances that allow child abuse and neglect to persist. For this reason, we at every opportunity will share local prevention solutions at the same time we share findings that point to the scope of the problem. Also, over time, we will share broadly with Oregonians the trends in child abuse rates so that we can together make prevention decisions with the best possible information. 

 

 

 


Is student participation anonymous? How is student privacy protected?

Student participation is anonymous. We at no time collect the names of student participants and all reports will group information in a way that can in no way reveal an individual’s identity. However, in the unlikely situation where a student types or reveals their name and their abuse history, we will follow school policy and Oregon law.

 

 

 


How long does it take to fill out the questionnaire? What is being asked of the schools that participate?

The survey takes about 30 minutes on average to complete and each participant completes the questionnaire once during one class period. We use one full class period. This allows us, in addition to the time it takes to complete the survey, to introduce ourselves, describe the purpose of the study, remind students that participation is optional and anonymous, to briefly discuss their emotional experience, and to share resources immediately following completion of the survey.

 

OCAPS has very little impact on instructional time for each school. In total, at each participating school, we will conduct the survey during two class periods on one day. Students complete the survey on a security-screen iPad.

 

 

 


What kinds of questions are being asked?

OCAPS asks very direct questions about sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, seeing or hearing intimate partner violence (domestic violence) and neglect. In addition, the survey includes several questions about health, school performance, and ‘protective factors,’ including social connection, belongingness and neighborhood support. This will allow us to share with community members whether and how social support impacts the likelihood of being abused or neglected in childhood, and whether support for child survivors of abuse and neglect has an impact on things like anxiety, depression, grades and school attendance. We will also be able to report on these findings across Oregon, including similarities and differences in urban, rural and frontier communities.

 

 

 


What did student and school personnel say about their experience in the OCAPS high school pilot study?

Student and school personnel response to the pilot survey was overwhelmingly positive. School personnel reported appreciation that the survey did not have a meaningful impact on instructional time since it is completed in one class period – and for the statewide survey in only 2 class periods on one day for each school. School personnel also widely supported the purpose of the OCAPS study. A principal and superintendent reflected the view of many:

 

“We felt that having an accurate snapshot of the traumatic experience the youth of Oregon face is vital in supporting their learning.”

 

“It was worth the time and energy! Overall it was very positive for our school. Students appreciated being asked these tough questions in a supportive way.”

 

As part of the OCAPS pilot we asked students how they felt immediately following the survey:

  • 15% felt upset or sad
  • 43% felt neutral
  • 15% felt inspired
  • 26% felt hopeful
  • 39% felt “supported or validated because people are learning about child abuse”

 

We also talked with students immediately following their participation. Overwhelmingly, students supported the study and shared with us that they believe – although child abuse is difficult and a kind of taboo topic – it is important to more fully learn about it. Many students urged us to respect their experiences by translating the findings of this study into local action. One student reflected the feeling and thinking of many:

 

“Since we’re giving you the information, I think it would be very useful if you used it to your max potential, and do as much as you can with the information as you possibly can – in every way that you can.”

 

Dozens of students also directly expressed appreciation for the survey. One student put it this way:

 

“Thank you. Childhood abuse/trauma will likely affect me and a lot of adolescents I know for the rest of our lives. It is nice to be validated and to know people are taking steps to help prevent this.”

 

 

 

 


How do parents and guardians find out about OCAPS?

We use “active notification” and a “passive permission/passive consent” process. In short, this means that we notify all parents and guardians at least two weeks prior to the survey. The announcement is delivered using communication channels that are common to each school, including for instance an informational brochure in the mail and automated phone calls. Parents will receive a notification of this type on 2 occasions and will also be directed to this website for more information and frequently asked questions. For 16 and 17-year-old students, parent permission is assumed if parents do not inform us that they wish to opt out their child – and we make it easy and convenient to inform us about opting out. Eighteen-year-old students have the legal right to participate and consent on their own, though we send parent/guardian notification to all parents and guardians.

 

 

 

 


When is the survey conducted? When are results available?

We will share full reports within 6 months of the last school’s participation. We anticipate this will be in the fall, 2022. A report from our pilot study is available here.

 

 

 

For more information about OCAPS, please contact Simone Schnabler, Research Coordinator, Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect, University of Oregon at simones@uoregon.edu.