Child welfare experts and abuse advocates across the globe are worried that the COVID-19 crisis could put child abuse victims at an even greater risk. While numerous sources claim that child abuse reports are expected to rise during the pandemic, others argue that we will see a decrease in reported cases as children, as well as their mandated reporters, are stuck at home and away from the public eye. With so much uncertainty in the world right now, it’s important to show our support for the children and families who are most vulnerable to abusive environments and bring awareness to the resources that are available to those who need it most.
The safety parameters implemented by local, state, and federal governments to combat coronavirus have a number of implications on victims and survivors of child abuse. Children currently living in disadvantaged, impoverished, or abusive households are now potentially stuck with their abuser. With schools closed, extracurricular programs cancelled, and other community or religious groups shut down, children and young adults no longer have places to escape when things are difficult at home. Social distancing parameters and even playground and park closures make it harder for kids to meet up with friends and separate themselves from violent or abusive situations. These ramifications of the pandemic are leaving children isolated from the resources they might otherwise turn to in times of crisis, like telling a teacher or another trusted adult.
The pandemic has also caused thousands of businesses to lay off employees and close up shop for the foreseeable future. The subsequent financial stress and uncertainty of a parent or caregiver losing their job can heighten anxiety in a household that is already vulnerable or has a history of abuse. Abusers who were laid off or allowed to work from home are also stuck inside with their victims, likely for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This close proximity over an extended period of time can make it easier for the abuser to exert their power, where the victim might have limited resources or even time to seek help without the abuser finding out.
Adult survivors of childhood abuse are also finding it difficult to seek help amid the pandemic. Many compensation funds designated for abuse victims are on hold due to the economic collapse, preventing survivors from obtaining the compensation they deserve for the crimes committed against them. While many local and state court systems are closed or running on limited staff members, law firms across the country have been deemed essential businesses and are allowed to remain open during the pandemic. Even though courts are not yet reopened, adult survivors of abuse can utilize online resources that offer vital information regarding legal action that can be taken following abuse.
This pandemic within a pandemic, as it seems, only reinforces why child abuse awareness and prevention strategies are important to implement and improve all year round. The coronavirus lockdowns also hammer home the need for qualified resource and foster parents to take in children and teenagers who are at risk of falling into these abusive or neglectful environments. In any case, non-profit organizations, domestic violence shelters, foster homes, and other childcare institutions need help to keep their doors open so they can continue to offer their resources and support to children and families who are most in need. Those who are at risk of abuse or violence during the lockdowns should know there are still emergency resources available, including RAINN.org, the National Hotline to End Domestic Violence, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. These hotlines all offer resources and services for individuals who may be trapped with their abuser during quarantine.