Over the last several month, our world has been facing a health crisis, with the United States not immune to the toll of COVID-19. While this is a significant concern for national and global health and economics, there is another epidemic that affects our communities; one that is exasterbated by the COVID-19 pandemic: child abuse. As April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is working to point out the connection between crisis moments like COVID-19 and an increased rate of child abuse in vulnerable communities. By creating important education around this issue, we are committed to keeping children safe through continued reporting, intervention, and healing services.
What is Child Abuse?
Child abuse presents itself in many forms including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as neglect. There are several mportant statistics of child abuse to consider to understand the severity of this issue, including:
- There are nearly 3 million reports of child abuse in the United States every year.
- Reports show that approximately 5 children die every day from abuse and most of these children are under the age of 3.
- It’s estimated that 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18 usually by a family member.
- 90% of child victims know the perpetrator in some way, and 68% are abused by a family member.
In many cases, children are too fearful to tell someone about the abuse they endure, so many cases of abuse and neglect are only reported because someone noticed a sign of abuse. This is why it is so important for communities to learn what the signs of abuse are so that we can prevent it together. Learn more about the signs of child abuse and how you can prevent it here.
How Does COVID-19 Impact Abuse Statistics?
There are a number of factors present during the current health crisis that can contribute to an increase in child abuse.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries and specific states have been asked to maintain social distancing ordinances and remain at home as much as possible. While this is important so that the virus might not spread further, it is affecting other areas of life.
Many parents are experiencing heightened stress due to lack of work, food, resources, and more. By not being able to go to work, unemployment rates have increased, causing these types of financial insecurity. Further, as most schools are currently closed, many parents are required to help educate their children through virutal classes and e-assignments. This comes with increased concern for parents who are working from home full-time, have limited education or language skills, or other barriers. All of these element can cause significant amounts of stress. As stress is a main factor contributing to child abuse, we can draw a correlation between rising instances of both.
As children are remaining in the home with parents who have significantly increased stress levels, there is additional risk of stress being taken out on children through verbal or phyiscal abuse. Additionally, as child are spending most, if not all, of their time at home, reports of child abuse are declining. As educators, coaches, church officials, and community members are often the most common reporters of suspected abuse, those who typically file a report are not in contact with the children. This means that instances of abuse may be going unreported, not allowing for proper intervention to take place.
What You Can Do to Prevent Child Abuse During This Time
It’s a little difficult to report child abuse if you are not in contact with a child during this time of social distancing. However, we can all do our part to diminish the factors that contribute to child abuse. This includes helping a family that you know might be under more stress than usual, whether financially, physically, or mentally. There are practical actions that can make a major difference in helping to decrease stressors in the home of a loved one, peer, student, or community member. Some examples include:
- Buying necessary groceries, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and resources for a neighbor with minimal income and dropping it off at their door
- Checking in with neighbors, friends, and coworkers on the phone to see if they need any support
- Connecting with students and families that you know are of increased risk during this time, such as those who with parents that are unemployed
- Sending parents helpful tools for online learning, working from home, and indoor activities
- Following up on any reported but unresolved suspected instances of abuse or neglect in the home
- Seeking a wellness check on a neighbor, student, or community member who has been absent from virtual gatherings (such as online classroom sessions, virtual church services, and more)
For educators, making sure to follow all professional procedures is important to ensure that privacy and confidentialy is maintained.
Supporting the Children Abuse Prevention Efforts of SOS Children’s Villages Illinois
You can help to spread awareness of Child Abuse Prevention Month in support of SOS Illinois by sharing our blogs, social media posts, and resources on your own social platforms and webpages. By doing so, you not only help to strengthen the awareness of SOS Illinois in the community, but can provide life-saving tools that decrease instances of abuse and neglect.
Feeling extra empowered to make a difference during Child Abuse Prevention Month and the current health crisis? Make a gift to SOS Illinois today to help sustain the programs and services offered to children in foster care and at-risk families, and join our digital connection efforts to get others involved.