One in ten West Midlands adults fears a child they know is being abused, a children's charity said today.
According to research for the NSPCC, at least six per cent of people in the region turn a blind eye to their suspicions while almost 70 per cent worry about whether to report their concerns.
Researchers found the 1,002 West Midlanders polled were anxious they might break up a family and make things worse for the child if they told a charity, the police or social services.
They discovered neighbours, teachers and youth workers were among the most likely to report possible abuse but more than a third of those questioned were not sure which organisation to tell. The NSPCC estimates that nationwide more than a quarter of a million adults suspected cases of child abuse in the past decade but did nothing about it.
The figure is based on a representative poll, by BMRB, of nearly 10,000 over-18s which shows one in nine adults feared a child they knew was being abused.
Physical abuse was the most common cause of concern (26 per cent), followed by neglect (23 per cent), emotional abuse (15 per cent), bullying (12 per cent) and sexual abuse (11 per cent).
One victim, Faye, an engineer from Birmingham, said she was sure neighbours chose to ignore her screams when she was abused.
She said: "I feel really let down because there were people who could have helped and chose not to. It's been a really hard journey and if people had reported their concerns when I was aged six, I might not have had to contend with the abuse until the age of 16."
Phil Buckley, who runs NSPCC investigations into paedophile rings and institutional child abuse in the Midlands, said that at any given time there were between five and ten inquiries into alleged child abuse at West Midlands institutions.
He said the public had to realise that talking to the authorities or the NSPCC was different to imputing blame on someone.
"Mostly the people who do not report their worries about a child's treatment are concerned that they will not be believed, that they might accuse someone wrongly or that their actions may ostracise them from a neighbour or relatives," he said.
"But talking about their fears is raising the concern and saying 'I have seen a child with a badly bruised eye' or 'I have heard screaming and shouting in the night'.
"People have a very strange idea of how the system works. The family actually receives a lot of support.
"I would advise anyone with any concerns to talk about them with friends, neighbours and professionals such as the police, social services and the NSPCC. To hope it is not happening is not the answer."
Mr Buckley said he had noticed that more girls and women were reporting that they had been abused.
He added: "Men are less likely than women to report that they have been abused. We need to change that. They find it more difficult to talk about and there appears to be an extra stigma attached to male child abuse."
* The Birmingham business community is organising a ball for January 28 next year to raise funds for the NSPCC. Tickets, which are £1,000 for ten, include a Champagne reception, a three-course meal and live entertainment with a 'Hollywood glamour' theme. To reserve a place call the NSPCC on 0121 704 2766 or email firstname.lastname@example.org