As the United States and the entire world become enveloped in the worst pandemic in a century, many have embraced self-isolating and sheltering in place as a basic responsibility to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. However, for many of the most vulnerable—such as children—home can be the most unsafe place due to domestic violence and abuse
Nothing is more important for the development of children into well-functioning, responsible, and healthy adults than a secure and nurturing home. But the crisis unleashed by CoViD-19 has posed an acute risk of sexual abuse to children, child advocates told Huffington Post.
Since March, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) has noticed a sharp increase in minors reporting sexual violence, according to RAINN President Scott Berkowitz. The rise in sexual abuse coincides with the period in which most state governments implemented shelter-in-place measures.
“Last month, for the first time ever, a majority of RAINN’s sexual abuse hotline users were minors.”
Much of the problem is due to the fact that children who normally rely on other adults as safety insurance against abusers simply can’t escape their homes.
“So many minors are now locked at home with their abuser, in the same house … The safety net that they had―the parents and teachers and coaches that they would see every day who were likely the first people to notice signs of abuse―children no longer have contact with those people right now.”
Over half of those calling RAINN’s hotline in March were minors under the age of 18. Of those children, 67 percent accused a family member of sexually assaulting them while 79 percent of that group said that they lived with the perpetrator. The group’s victim service programs assist 25,000 people per month, on average.
The group fears that cases of child sexual abuse will trend upwards as people indefinitely stay at home during the fight to curb the pandemic.
Over 93 percent of sexually abused children face sexual violence at the hands of someone close to them. While the perpetrators are often older relatives or adults, other children such as siblings or cousins can also be the abuser, according to American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) Executive Director Dr. Janet Rosenzweig. Over one-third of child sexual abuse cases involve a minor committing the abuse.
“By now, people have all heard about the pedophiles that groom children and that’s a very true way to describe adult offenders. But with kids, it’s usually predicated by sexual arousal meeting poor impulse control, and an opportunity.”
However, with many parents preoccupied with their Zoom meetings and other online home office tasks, potentially abusive minors can often be put in charge of taking care of their younger peers.
On Tuesday, independent human rights monitors from the United Nations issued an urgent appeal for governments across the world to safeguard the welfare of children who are vulnerable to violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, and exploitation amid the CoViD-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said:
“Globally, confinement measures and the disrupted provision of already limited child protection services exacerbate the vulnerability of children living in psychiatric and social care institutions, orphanages, refugee camps, immigration detention centers and other closed facilities.”
Additionally, the rights experts warned against online pedophilia, live-streamed sexual abuse, and the distribution of video depictions of child rape—a problem requiring the collaboration of law enforcement and private companies…