Americans across the country have complained about — and even taken to the streets to protest against — the negative impacts of the ongoing coronavirus lockdown. Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs. Business owners have had to close their doors. Churches can't hold services. Parents are swamped trying to teach their own kids at home while working remotely and trying to maintain some sort of sanity in their home. State and local authorities are threatening crackdowns on their own people.
Add to this list one of the most tragic developments to come out of the nation's decision to close down everything in response to the pandemic: a massive increase in child sexual abuse.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline saw the number of calls from minors reporting sexual abuse jump by more than 20% in March, NPR reported.
What is happening?
RAINN Vice President Camille Cooper told NPR on Tuesday that for the first time half of all calls were from minors.
According to NPR and RAINN, of the children who called the hotline in March with coronavirus-related concerns, 67% said their perpetrator was a family member, and 79% said they were living with the perpetrator.
RAINN said that in 1 out of 5 of those calls where the minor was living the the perp, the organization was able to help the child contact the police during the call; and 4 in 10 calls involved a discussion of how to leave or at least avoid the perpetrator.
The uptick is clearly connected to coronavirus stay-at-home orders, RAINN President Scott Berkowitz noted.
"Unfortunately for many, and especially for children experiencing sexual abuse, 'stay at home' doesn't mean 'safe at home,'" he said in a release on the organization's site.
Cooper told NPR the increase in abuse was a "direct result" of current quarantine policies:
As a result of looking at the information that we had from those sessions, it was clear that the abuse was escalating in both frequency and severity. So a lot of the kids that were coming to the hotline were feeling pretty vulnerable and traumatized. And it was a direct result of COVID-19, because they were quarantined with their abuser. The abuser was now abusing them on a daily basis.
NPR said that, according to RAINN, one-third of child sexual abusers are family members. So closing schools and prohibiting kids' activities such as sports and clubs "removes children from the watchful eyes of 'mandatory reporters' — those trusted adults, like teachers, nurses and child care providers, who are required by law in most states to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect."
Worth noting is the fact that these numbers are for March — and the first lockdown orders began in the last half of the month. April's numbers could be even more harrowing.
Anyone who might need help in a situation like this can call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).