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Child abuse, sex assault reports increase as COVID-19 restrictions loosen, authorities say

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — New information is coming out about the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on incidents of child abuse and sexual assault.

 

Members in the law enforcement community and victim advocates are raising awareness with April being both National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“This is a public health crisis, it’s a public safety crisis,” Paulina Mendez, Family Justice Center division manager, said about the prevalence of these crimes.

Experts said just as many of our worlds were kept behind closed doors this past year, unfortunately, so were crimes like child abuse and sexual assault.

The CDC said official reports of child abuse and neglect went down across America for most of 2020, in some cases by 20- 70%. However, experts said it’s likely because children in dangerous situations weren’t in contact with people who could report the abuse.

“There was this quietness that always scares us because we know it’s happening,” said Geoff Sidoli, executive director for the Mountain Child Advocacy Center.

As communities reopen, law enforcement and child and family advocates are beginning to see some of what was kept hidden.

“We’re seeing a surge in reports,” Sidoli said, adding the Mountain Child Advocacy Center has an eight-week waitlist right now for therapy.

Rebecca Smith, the social work director for Buncombe County Health and Human Services, said reports to that agency dropped by about 40 a month during the pandemic.

However, she said their workload didn’t change much because the cases they were seeing were complex.

Smith said by about halfway through the last year the agency also started seeing an increase in children going into foster care.

“Maybe after the pandemic had some time to settle in a little bit and we were seeing some of that pandemic fatigue by people,” Smith said. “Even families that we had seen in the past be successful and entering recovery.”

Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit focuses solely on child abuse, elder abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Read More at ABC13 News

Taylor Pyles

Taylor Pyles is a child abuse survivor and the founder of The Blue Ribbon Project. He has been a police officer with Annapolis Police Department for over a decade and is assigned as a Detective in the Criminal Investigations Section.  When not working, you'll find him spending time with his family and out enjoying the countryside on two wheels. 

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