With the rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many states have officially ordered or recommended for individuals and families to stay at home, practice strict social distancing measures, and self-isolate if you are at an increased risk of catching the virus. While theses measures are in place to protect people from becoming ill, COIVID-19 mandates are showing to be harmful for children who live in abusive environments. Since statewide shelter-in-place orders started a month ago, Childhelp, a non-profit charity that helps victims of child abuse, reported receiving 28% more calls, social media messages, and texts.
“We cannot let a health pandemic turn into a child abuse pandemic,” said Daphne Young, a representative for Childhelp, to World News Group in an interview.
Childhelp is not alone in seeing an uptick in child abuse cases. At the Cook Children’s Medical Center in Forth Worth, TX, in a single week they saw seven severe cases of child abuse, the number of cases they usually see in a month. The victims were all younger than four years old, and two of the children died from their abuse.
The increase in abuse cases can be traced back to the stay at home and quarantine measures. Many families are experiencing increased stress around the economy, job layoffs, or other losses caused by the coronavirus outbreak. These factors add up and can trigger acts of aggression, mental health issues, and, often, abuse.
“All of these things are a tinder box for child abuse,” Young stated.
At the same time, state social service agencies are reporting a troubling drop in the number reports of child abuse coming in since the COVID-19 outbreak. Public child welfare advocates in Pennsylvania had 837 less calls the week Pennsylvania’s schools closed. Teachers are mandatory reporters of child abuse, so closing off access to school closes off children from adults who are required to report any concerns or signs of abuse.
Children living in environments with an unrelated adult, like a live-in girlfriend or boyfriend, can be at the highest risk for abuse. Statistically, children who are raised by biological married parents are the safest reported Katy Faust, founder and director of the child advocacy group Them Before Us.
“Hundreds of millions of children around the world will likely face increasing threats to their safety and wellbeing – including mistreatment, gender-based violence, exploitation, social exclusion and separation from caregivers – because of actions taken to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated UNICEF, an organization that defends the rights and lives of children, in a press release. According to UNICEF’s data, during the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, there were significant spikes in child sexual abuse, neglect, and teen pregnancies. UNICEF hopes to avoid a similar trend in measures responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and want health officials to provide more support and protection for children at risk of abuse.
However, more support and protection may prove to be difficult. Many social workers who oversee at-risk children are having to practice social distancing measures, limit home visits, and use video conferencing instead in order to prevent COVID-19 spread. Child welfare workers in states like New York, Michigan, and Washington have tested positive for COVID-19, so stopping the spread is becoming a priority for many child welfare organizations.
To report child abuse or seek resources about child abuse, call 1.800.4.A.CHILD today or visit Childhelp’s site today at https://www.childhelp.org/. Childhelp has live chat services available 24/7 and access to your local child protective services phone number.
You Have Legal Rights After Being Sexually Abused
If you or a loved one was sexually abused as a child, you are not alone or without options for justice. After being abused, you have legal rights that may entitle you not only to justice, but compensation to help you recover from abuse. We understand that compensation cannot reverse the crimes inflicted on you or a loved one. But, compensation can help cover financial bills that insurance often doesn’t cover, like counseling or therapy sessions. To connect with experienced sexual abuse attorneys and see if you are eligible to file a claim for your abuse, contact No More Abuse USA today. We offer free, no-obligation case consultations and have legal professionals available 24/7 to answer your case questions and concerns.