Sugar pill used to sweeten charity's hard-hitting message

The NSPCC is using a top-selling teen magazine to raise awareness of child abuse.
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The Independent Online

A mother turns from the stove, screams at her toddler to behave and as the screen blacks out, there comes the chilling sound of a slap. The NSPCC's current "Hit means lost it" campaign is the latest in a series of high-impact TV adverts.

With growing public awareness of child abuse in all its forms, the children's charity is now taking its media strategy to the next level, targeting information at particularly high-risk groups through the pages of glossy magazines. The NSPCC has teamed up with the best-selling teen title Sugar to launch a new campaign, "Stand Up Speak Out", telling girls that it is never acceptable for anyone to hurt them.

At the other end of the spectrum, the charity has published a new magazine, Your Family, offering support to expectant mothers and parents of children under six in the crucial early years of a child's life, when they are at greatest risk of abuse. The high-quality quarterly magazine, which has the production values of a paid-for title, is being distributed through 400 Woolworths stores nationwide.

The NSPCC, in conjunction with Sugar, has conducted a survey of 2,000 girls with an average age of 15, revealing a frightening portrait of domestic violence. Of those questioned, nearly one in five has been hit by a boyfriend, while 43 per cent believe it is acceptable for male partners to act aggressively. A fifth have been hit by parents and 11 per cent have seen their parents hit each other. The survey also shows a correlation between girls who have been hit at home and those who have been hit by a boyfriend.

The newly relaunched May edition of Sugar, which is read by more than one million teenagers a month, offers readers advice on what to do if they or their friends have experienced violence as well as advertising the NSPCC helpline number and website.

As part of a long-term campaign, the magazine has also commissioned creative agencies to come up with four anti-bullying posters and is asking readers to vote for their favourite by text message.

John Grounds, the NSPCC's director of communications, says: "The message for young people is that nobody should ever hurt you. Nobody should ever push you around. It covers domestic violence and other abusive relationships - verbal aggression by a boyfriend or girlfriend, bullying in class. The message is that there are things you can do - if this is happening, it shouldn't be."

Annabel Brog, the editor of Sugar, believes the magazine and the charity are "perfect partners". She says: "We wanted to show that we weren't just being sensationalist. We wanted to be solution based and to partner up with someone who has the expertise to help. There's no point in doing the sort of survey we've done and then directing readers to our agony aunts. Our message reaches the girls in a way that the NSPCC never will. The NSPCC knows everything about advice on abuse. We know exactly how to speak to teenagers."

Your Family, which is free and is published on behalf of the NSPCC by Redwood, is aimed at a very different audience, offering mums-to-be and the parents of young children positive advice and support on child rearing in the style of one of the less lurid women's weeklies. It will have a print run of 800,000 copies.

While there are already six parenting titles on the market, Grounds believes there is still a huge demand for practical advice. He says: "Parents of young children are crying out for good information in an accessible format, but very often, the information is too expensive for them to buy, or it's dry and not entertaining."

The television presenter Gail Porter is the magazine's first cover star, talking about her battle with post-natal depression. Susannah Pearce, the editor of Your Family, says: "Gail is showing you can have problems and get over it. Our brief was to be really positive and to be of real use to parents. Supported parents means supported children."