Experts concerned child abuse will increase with coronavirus isolation

School are closed and self-isolation has led to a lot of changes. Including a drop in the number of child abuse cases reported to several state hotlines.
Updated: Apr. 22, 2020 at 5:52 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - With schools closed, self-isolation has led to a lot of changes. That includes a drop in the number of child abuse cases reported to several state hotlines.

“A lot of those referrals come from school personnel, school counselors, mental health practitioners, principals, assistant principals,” said Kelly Gillooly, director of behavioral health outreach at UofL Peace Hospital.

The last day of classroom learning for most students in our area because of the coronavirus pandemic was March 13. According to UofL Health, during the week of March 8-14, the Kentucky Department of Community Based Services, which is responsible for child protection, received a total of 4,047 reports of possible child abuse cases that came into their hotline, from law enforcement, and tips anonymously made online. Compare that to the week of March 15-21, they received 2,846.

The drop in reported cases isn’t necessarily a good thing.

“It doesn’t mean the abuse has stopped, it means people aren’t reporting,” Gillooly said. "There are a lot of theories about why there is more child abuse occurring these days. There is a lot of correlation between increase in substance use disorders and the aftermath of opioid use epidemic.

Throw in a global pandemic and it gets worse.

"Everyone is feeling a little more depressed and anxious with the unknown and what is going on," Gillooly said. "When an adult is feeling that way sometimes they will take that out on people that are closest to them."

Which leaves the possibility of children who have been previously neglected or abused to be retraumatized. Because of social distancing measures, it's hard to know what's going on in homes right now but Gillooly says that doesn't mean you can't see the obvious.

"If you see a child obviously in the community that has any kind of excessive bruising or anything like that, any children wandering around isolating by themselves ask them if they are okay," Gillooly said. "Social distancing doesn't mean that we have to be socially disconnected."

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. While most child abuse reports are made by schools or medical personnel, In Kentucky, everyone is required to report suspected child abuse.

For more information on how to report child abuse and how caregivers can get help, click here.

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