A Pandemic Won’t Prevent Child Abuse, But People Can
On Behalf of the Child Advocacy Centers of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties and the PA Chapter of CACs and MDTs
The ongoing Covid-19 outbreak has disrupted daily life for many people across Pennsylvania, especially kids.
Organized sports, youth events and school activities have been put on hold to prevent disease transmission, leaving children confined to their homes.
However, Covid-19 is not the only risk children are facing during these times. Although essential to combatting the spread of coronavirus, measures such as social distancing and school closures create environments where children are isolated from support networks including teachers, coaches, counselors and medical providers. Unfortunately, home is not always the safest place in a child’s life.
People such as teachers and coaches are mandated reporters, meaning they are legally required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the relevant authorities.
In doing so, they provide a safety net for children and are often on the frontlines in reporting allegations of child sexual abuse.
Statistics show that 90% of child abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way, be it a parent, uncle, sibling or close family friend.
During this time of social isolation, child abuse can go unnoticed and unreported, having a lasting impact on victims while leaving them feeling hopeless and alone.
Furthermore, our current societal situation poses an inadvertent risk of child exploitation online. Social isolation at home means children have more time and access to the internet and social media.
Child predators are certainly still active during the pandemic and will utilize tactics to entice even more unsuspecting youth into participating in exploitive activities online.
The predators may pose as other children who seem friendly at first, but soon turn conversations sexual and seek explicit images or suggest the child sneak out to meet them.
Although the world feels like it has been turned upside down, it is perhaps more important than ever that we all do our part to keep children safe by continuing to reach out and reassure the kids in our lives that we are here to listen and support them if anything is bothering them.
We should talk with them about personal safety, boundaries, cyber-safety and the importance of speaking out if someone makes them feel uncomfortable or scared.
We should also teach them about the deceptive tricks that abusers may use and monitor their time spent playing online games and on social media, making sure they only interact with children and adults who they know.
Child advocacy centers across southeastern Pennsylvania provide a safe place for kids to tell their story and heal after sexual abuse.
Even under these current uncertain circumstances, we continue to work with law enforcement officers, our respective District Attorney’s Offices and child welfare agencies to respond to suspected child sexual abuse on an emergency basis.
Our family advocates and therapists continue to regularly engage with child survivors and their families to ensure that they have the necessary resources to cope with this crisis and continue on a path of healing.
All of our services are free to families.
During these unprecedented times, preventing the spread of COVID-19 via tactics such as social distancing is essential.
However, we need to realize and account for the unintended consequences these societal changes can have on our communities and, most importantly, our children.
Resources are available!
While children may be isolated from their adult safety nets, they are still able to communicate with peers about what is going on at home.
Youth can reach out and submit an anonymous tip to SAF2SAY, a youth violence prevention program run by the PA Office of Attorney General, if they or their peers are experiencing abuse at https://www.safe2saypa.org/.
The crisis center will send the submission to the appropriate school administration and law enforcement for intervention if necessary.
Adults can report any suspicion of inappropriate sexual contact to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine.
This toll-free hotline (800-932-0313) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to receive reports of suspected child abuse.
Additionally, they can also visit missingkids.org to access the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline, a national centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children.
For more information or help, visit keepkidssafe.pa.gov.
Below is a list of local Child Advocacy Centers across Southeastern PA:
- Bucks County: Bucks County Children’s Advocacy Center
- Chester County: Chester County Child Advocacy Center
- Delaware County: Delaware County Children’s Advocacy Center
- Montgomery County: Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center
- Philadelphia County: Philadelphia Children’s Alliance
You can also contact the Pennsylvania Chapter of Child Advocacy Centers: www.penncac.org