April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
The month of April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States since 1983. I wrote an article in 2011 about how child abuse rose during the recession. I am afraid, that we are again living in a time, in which child abuse and domestic violence are escalating.
World child abuse rates would likely increase due to the coronavirus lockdownReports are frightening. “After a harrowing week in which multiple children were admitted to the Cook Hospital for abuse, medical director Jamye Coffman sounded the alarm, telling the world child abuse rates would likely increase due to the coronavirus lockdown. Two children, both under the age of four, died in the hospital because of abuse-related injuries. Those two children were part of a group of seven children under age four who had all been admitted to the hospital for abuse over the course of one week. Normally, Cook Children's Medical Center sees an average of six children a year die due to abuse, but on one day that week, two preschoolers died. Cook Hospital soon became the first hospital in America to alert the public about a possible surge in child abuse cases. Experts say that what happened there is likely not an isolated issue.”
According to the Center of Disease Control, one in seven children have experienced child abuse in the past year, but as most American families shelter at home, and over 10 million Americans file for unemployment, anxiety levels are higher than normal. During times of stress, rates of child abuse tend to increase. Considering 90% of child abuse is done by someone the child knows, having children trapped in close quarters with family can be a recipe for disaster. Research have showed that abuse and domestic violence are often fueled by economic stress and unemployment, and with the pandemic, I am afraid when the numbers come out, child abuse will be at a historic high.
Teachers are the biggest reporters of child abuseBut the other key problem while people are locked down is a lack of visibility. Teachers are the biggest reporters of child abuse, but with kids not going to school, reports are likely to drop, if not already. In summer months, according to several articles and research, there tends to be a significant decrease in reported child abuse cases because children are not in school and the teachers are the most prevalent reporters of child abuse.
Several articles have already noted that if the child has to leave the home and be seen by teachers or peers or counselors, the abuser is less likely to inflict abuse on them that would leave injuries or scars that are visible. While reported child abuse rates are down due to less reporting, the rates of serious abuse admissions seem to be up. Sadly, because children are home and nobody knows what is going on behind closed doors, it is very difficult to report.
According to child abuse experts, even though teachers may only be able to observe their students through a video chat window during a remote class, it is important that they continue to monitor them. Signs of abuse could be visible bruises, changes in mood, or continued absences. Additionally, we as a community can keep in “touch” with others that we know may be suffering and it is our duty to seek help for victims of abuse.