April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since 1983, the United States has designated this month as a time to raise awareness and prevent child abuse. In past years, you may have noticed the pinwheels planted in front of St. Francis-Xavier Catholic Church for each child abuse case opened in Medina County the previous year. At The Children’s Center of Medina County, every day is dedicated to bringing together the services needed by children who have experienced abuse. Through our Child Advocacy Center, Foster Care Visitation Center, and our Anti-Human Trafficking Services healing of children is our priority.
This April, the COVID-19 crisis makes it challenging to focus on anything other than keeping everyone safe from the virus. However, we need to call your attention to child abuse. We know that child abuse tends to increase during times of stress from uncertainty, lack of social support, financial strain and interruptions to school and childcare. During this crisis, children may be isolated at home with a physically or sexually abusive parent or caregiver or left alone with someone a parent believes is a safe person but isn’t as more than 90% of child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows. Children who are out of school may lack access to a safe adult to disclose their abuse since they now have limited contact with teachers and school staff. The increased time online during this crisis also gives additional opportunity for virtual interactions from online predators with children that could lead to victimization. Please discuss with children online safety and to not accept any friend requests from anyone they do not know. The very isolation that we hope will stem the tide of the COVID-19 spread, puts children at a greater risk of abuse. Once school resumes, we anticipate a significant increase in abuse reports.
I would like to take a moment to remind everyone of how important they are in the lives of children. With children out of school where teachers usually are the eyes and ears who make the phone calls to report abuse, it is important for everyone to become aware of the abuse and be the eyes and ears for all children in all our families, neighborhoods and communities.
Very few children report the abuse that they experience. Statistically, only 10% of child abuse is reported. Therefore, 90% of the children being abused are not reported. Those children depend on teachers and other adults in the community who suspect something to say something. If you suspect child abuse or neglect is occurring, please report it to our local Child Protective Service agency through the Child Abuse Hotline 330-661-0800 or call the police if a child is in immediate danger.
You have the power to create positive change in our community by stopping the abuse and neglect that occurs in our own neighborhoods. Be the change that makes a difference, saves a life or ends the cycle of abuse. The longer the abuse continues the more damage it will ultimately cause the child(ren). These kids are counting on all of us.