Child sexual abuse awareness and prevention are becoming increasingly necessary as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, trapping children in households with their abusers and isolating vulnerable families from the resources they need to get help. Nation- and statewide mandates that were implemented to prevent the virus from spreading are putting child abuse victims at an even greater risk of neglect and violence. While the pandemic has left many of us in a state of flux, it’s important to acknowledge those who are suffering and who do not have someone to stand up and speak on their behalf.
Based on 2017 data, about 24,432 children in Connecticut received an investigation or assessment for potential child maltreatment, and approximately 8,442 of these children were found to be victims of abuse or neglect. Young children living in abusive environments primarily rely on mandatory reporters and other resources outside the home to protect them by notifying the appropriate authority figures of potential abuse. Now that nationwide lockdowns and social distancing rules are in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, school teachers, counselors, and coaches are unable to perform their due diligence in getting these children the help they need.
School closures are also keeping vulnerable children from a variety of other resources, such as free school lunches and access to counseling services and afterschool programs. Due to social distancing protocols, children might not even be able to leave their households to see friends or play outside in public areas.
The overwhelming stress and anxiety brought on by job losses, stay-home measures, and other implications of the pandemic can put a tremendous amount of pressure on parents and caregivers. Experts fear that feelings of helplessness could trigger parents to lose their tempers, leading to increased instances of abuse or neglect. These trigger points include feeling suffocated, powerless, and extremely stressed or anxious.
Amid the pandemic, child neglect may rise in situations where families no longer have a steady source of income and can’t pay bills or purchase groceries and other necessities. While thousands of individuals and families have successfully filed for unemployment or have received stimulus paychecks, thousands more are unable to connect with unemployment services as they are inundated with requests on a daily basis.
Thankfully, there are many organizations whose doors remain open and are willing and capable of helping those in need. The Village continues to offer a range of behavioral health, early childhood and youth development, substance abuse treatment, and other support services to empower children and strengthen families amid the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the disruptive nature of the pandemic, we’ve established a COVID-19 resource page where individuals and families can find helpful tools and resources relative to their needs during this extremely difficult and uncertain time.
In the event of an emergency situation relating to child abuse, a number of hotlines and virtual services are open to connect victims, or the parents or guardians of victims, with the resources they need. Organizations like Childhelp, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and RAINN provide text message and live virtual chat features on their websites, in addition to 24-hour helplines where victims or guardians can speak with professional crisis counselors about potentially abusive situations. Other online resources can help individuals take the steps to report potential sexual abuse and feel empowered to take action during this time.
There appears to be no end in sight for the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent safety orders that are keeping children in abusive environments. The uncertain timeline of this pandemic only emphasizes how important and necessary it is to bring awareness to those who are suffering. Showing your support and sharing resources that are available in your community or online during the pandemic only helps bring these issues to the forefront so that sexual abuse victims and survivors can connect with the services they need.