Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Comments

Submitted to the Graduate School of Bridgewater State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science.

Degree Program

Criminal Justice

Degree Type

Master of Science


It is well known that child sexual abuse is a long standing problem in society. Much has been researched concerning the pedophile and other child molesters who choose to sexually exploit minors. Too often the victims of these crimes have been abused over a protracted period—sometimes years. Even more disturbing is the discovery that the abuse was noticed, even witnessed by others who choose not to intervene. Many people have looked the other way, denied what has occurred, or simply refused to become involved in stopping child molesters. This exploratory research examines what bystanders choose to do once they recognize that a minor may be in sexual jeopardy. Using a mixed methods approach involving survey research and case study analyses, this study measures the characteristics of bystanders, their attitudes toward social responsibility and their choices regarding intervention. Results were mixed finding support for some but not all hypotheses. Gender effects are prominent in likelihood to intervene. Factors that explain failure to intervene include denial, fear of retaliation, religiosity and others. Policy implications regarding Bystander or Good Samaritan laws are discussed.


Carolyn Petrosino (Committee Chair)

Aviva Twersky Glasner

Mitch Librett