Cut off from support systems during pandemic, children at greater risk of abuse | #predators | #childpredators | #kids

Over the course of the last year, our experience tells us an astoundingly high number of children have been physically and sexually abused. But we have not seen them or heard their voices. My colleagues in the world of social services and I are aware that COVID-19 unleashed economic turmoil and disconnection from support systems in families across the country. Such conditions can stimulate violence in families where it did not exist before and worsen where it was already present. Factor in that on average it takes a child 2 1/2 years to disclose their abuse, and the impacts from the pandemic on our children will be severe and long-lasting.

What continues to worry those of us who advocate for children is the limited in-person connections we have had with children since March 2020. We know thousands of children have been confined in households with intensified issues of domestic violence, parental mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, all factors for increased risks to children.

And teachers, the number one reporters of child abuse, will have to wait through the summer to see children who have not physically attended school, return in August. Nearly 18 months without physical observation and interaction is an unusually long timeframe that could have disastrous consequences for our community’s children. 

Because ChildSafe is an essential service provider, we did not stop seeing children and families during the pandemic. We continued providing our specialized forensic interviews, wrap-around care, and clinical therapy but with modifications to ensure access to services. We moved our counseling and multidisciplinary team meetings to online platforms and created virtual training for educators and human services professionals on identifying and appropriately responding to signs of abuse and neglect in a virtual setting.

Since last March, we have served 4,904 clients, down by 16% from last year at this time because so many children have been at home and not seen by others. Of the children ChildSafe served last year, 76% were victims of sexual abuse and over 50% were under age 13.

To drive awareness about the pervasiveness of child sexual abuse and help combat it, we recently launched our People of Courage initiative. Participants have committed to becoming informed about the issue and being the voice for children who have none. Here are a few facts: 

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