Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention During COVID-19
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Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention
Thousands of children are affected by abuse and neglect every year. According to estimates, about 1 in 10 children in the United States will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years of age. Children living in households with a history of violence or parent who experiences domestic violence can increase the likelihood that child abuse will co-occur, putting children at an even greater risk.
Common offenders of child abuse are also more likely to be known by the child or child’s family. In fact, the CDC estimates that this is true for approximately 91% of child sexual abuse victims.. While any situation involving child maltreatment is incredibly devastating for individuals and families, the pandemic has made it even more difficult for child abuse victims to escape abusive environments and seek help.
What is Child Abuse and Neglect?
According to Childhelp.org, child abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver causes emotional or physical harm, injury, or death. Child maltreatment also comes in many different forms. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, neglect, and abandonment are the major types of child abuse as defined by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Physical abuse is non-accidental, and involves the parent or caregiver causing physical harm or injury to the child. Sexual abuse or violence occurs when an adult engages in sexual activity with a minor. These behaviors include indecent exposure, exploitation, incest, sodomy, and rape. Emotional abuse can also be incredibly damaging to a child’s emotional development and concept of self-worth. An emotionally abusive parent may withhold love, support, and guidance, and may constantly criticize or reject the child.
Neglect refers to the failure of a parent or caregiver to provide their child with the basic needs to live. A neglectful parent does not provide the necessary food, medical treatment, education, or emotional support to ensure their child leads a secure and fulfilled life. Abandonment is another form of child abuse, and occurs when a parent deserts a child with no regard for their health or safety, leaving the child to fend for themselves. About 700,000 children experience abuse in the United States every year.
Who are Victims of Child Abuse?
Children are more likely to be abused by someone they know or a person in a position of power. In addition to direct family members, perpetrators are also known to utilize their influence or relationship to a family to get close to a child. In recent years, with developing technology and new or improved legal systems, abuse survivors have stepped forward to address their experiences and hold their abusers accountable. Some of the most common reports are against community figures in religious organizations and schools, like teachers, priests, and youth leaders. These child abuse allegations have highlighted how dangerous entrenched forms of institutional abuse can be in systems intended to help and protect children.
How is the Pandemic Affecting Abuse Victims?
Cases of child abuse in households become more prevalent during times of high anxiety, stress, isolation, and panic. The ongoing and unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic creates the “perfect storm” for children isolated with abusers. Parents or caregivers who lost their jobs or are working remotely are spending significantly more time at home, likely alongside their children who are attending school online. Household environments can feel claustrophobic and stressful when spending so much time together, leading parents to lash out and create unsafe spaces for their children. Financial pressure from unemployment can also raise anxiety in households that are struggling to pay for basic needs, like groceries and household bills.
Children need continuous support now more than ever. The pandemic brings to light the growing need for loving foster families to take care of children at risk of living in abusive environments.
Evolve Family Services can help strengthen children and families and offer the support they need during this incredibly difficult time.
Additional resources for children and families at risk of violence include: