Pandemic expected to impact child abuse cases

Updated: Apr. 13, 2020 at 7:33 PM EDT
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Child abuse cases are seeing a downturn, but experts say it's not because it's not happening, it’s likely going unreported because of the pandemic.

Schools have gone virtual and children are spending longer hours at home.

At the same time thousands of people are losing their jobs. Child protection center experts say the added stress and frustration could bring higher rates to physical trauma. Something centers like the CPC saw during the 2008 recession.

"Those numbers will start increasing the more that we go back to a normal routine. So, I think we're preparing for a spike in those types of reports and we're just trying to get the messaging out there to curb any of the physical violence towards kids," said the CPC Executive Director, Doug Staley

A child survivor tells ABC 7 his safe haven was school.

"Because when I got to school I knew I could take a breath of fresh air," said child abuse survivor Phillip Adams.

Phillip Adams grew up in Boston and was around four years old when he met his step father, the man who abused him and his siblings for years.

Adams says he’d get home and count the hours until he could be back at school again. “School is sanctuary.”

A sanctuary that in this current pandemic isn’t an option for children who need help since everything has gone virtual.

“This pandemic has us locked in. You’re in jail with your abuser, it’s pretty much to where it’s at,” said Adams.

The CPC executive director says schools are a big reason why child abuse gets reported in the first place.

“Our educators are our largest category of reporters of abuse, so when kids are not in school and in those environments, it makes it difficult to come to light those situations that are concerning,” said CPC Executive Director, Doug Staley.

Staley says the other impact the pandemic has on child abuse cases is when people lose their jobs or are affected economically it could bring an uptick of abuse.

“The nerves are shattered a little bit and so that frustration can tend to be taken out on kids especially the dynamic of now that kids are home more because of the pandemic,” said Staley.

He says everyone has a responsibility to report if they see something.

“It could be something as simple as a teacher putting it up on a card and holding it there and saying... do not say anything if you are ever if need... just say this phrase and then put it down,” said Adams.

Adams is now 43 with a wife and 7 kids. He says luck played a role in his rescue.

“I had people in my life who were like move him out of this situation and I had someone who was in a better place to take me, most kids don’t have that,” said Adams.

His life changed forever when he was 12 and his grandmother sent him to live hundreds of miles away in Maryland with his biological father. He grew up, served in the Navy and now advocates for other children who are going through what he experienced.

Adams message to children who may feel hopeless is that is gets better and you will get there because diamonds are made from pressure.

If you need help or know someone that needs help the hotline is 1-800-962-2873