“Safer at home … Stay home for us … Flatten the Curve.”
These lines have been constantly thrown around since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Politicians and health officials have issued heavy social distance restrictions and stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the virus and keep people safe.
While home may be the best place for at-risk demographics, this is not the case for everyone.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline has reported a sharp uptick in children reporting abuse. In March alone, over half of incoming calls were placed by minors, a record in RAINN’s history. 67% of callers identified their abuser as a family member and 79% identified them as someone living in their home. Current lockdown measures are allowing abusers to operate under a veil of secrecy while allowing them to further isolate their victims.
School closures and canceled extracurricular activities keep children away from life-saving, mandatory reporters. With no one on the outside to spot it, child abuse is increasing in severity and frequency.
Alyssa Mrozek, from the Southeast Alaska Family Evaluation Child Advocacy Center, even said, “I think this health pandemic is going to become a child abuse pandemic.”
With parents and caregivers experiencing financial hardship and stress, this is no surprise. Child advocacy agencies are working hard to check in on families and their children, but social distancing rules further complicate these situations.
The Office of Child Services has limited the in-person contact social workers have with children, which only allows abusers to isolate their victims. Mrozek says that many parents are using COVID symptoms to keep people from checking in.
Unfortunately, children are not the only vulnerable group isolated in an unsafe environment. A steady stream of domestic violence reports has come into the country’s crisis hotlines.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline states they’ve received 951 calls within a two week period in March that mentioned COVID-19.
Callers claim their abuser has threatened to throw them out at the first sign of illness, while others report they aren’t allowed to leave as their abuser feigns concern over infecting people. Widespread closures severely hamper a victim’s ability to access resources such as shelters and counseling.
As unemployment rates continue to rise, those in dangerous situations lose the daily reprieve that a job can provide.
Social distancing is encouraged to flatten the curve, but the reality is, it’s only distanced vulnerable people from life-saving services. While the virus curve has been flattened, domestic violence and child abuse cases have hit unprecedented levels.