Childhood sexual abuse robs victims of the innocence and hope that all children deserve. Victims suffer lifelong consequences, often impacting generations to come.
The statistics surrounding childhood sexual abuse are staggering and heart wrenching and suggest that there is a high probability that each of us knows someone who has been a victim of childhood sexual abuse or have been a victim ourselves. No More Stolen Childhoods is committed to increasing awareness and understanding about childhood sexual abuse and to supporting adult victims with resources to support them on their path to healing.
This April, in Child Abuse Prevention Month, we joined organizations across the country to highlight the need for child abuse prevention. Our efforts and message has become even more critical with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing shelter-at-home requirements.
Considering that in over 60% of child sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is a family member, advocates worry that there is an increased risk due to the current shelter-in-place guidelines. Simply put it is more time spent at home, without the external protective and reporting services that come when children are physically engaged in school and youth serving organizations. With school buildings closed, children are not seeing teachers, counselors or school professionals who are often the primary source of child abuse reports, reporting an estimated 20% of childhood abuse to child protective services nationwide. During time of financial strains, dependent, vulnerable parents are less likely or able to report abuse, and in-person visits by social service providers are not happening. In March, RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) reported that for the first time in the organization’s history, half of the calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline were from minors.
Additionally, we are concerned that sheltering-at-home results in children and adults spending more time on-line, for learning, for socializing and for entertainment. This increased access is creating an increased risk of on-line predatory behavior as well as a potential rise in the viewing of sexually abusive images of children. According to InHope, a network of 47 national cyber tip lines, calls to report child sexual exploitation activity have increased 30% globally.
The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted most of our lives at a level that few of us could have imagined just a short time ago. Many people express a heightened sense of frustration and anxiety, as well as a longing to regain control of our lives and the lives of those whom we love and want to protect. At the same time, I am hearing an increased sentiment in the desire to help others.
No More Stolen Childhoods is offering a variety of digital tools to help you and your family adapt to our new way of life while keeping kids safe. Our “Protecting Children During a Crisis” webinar provides strategies for parents to build a safe and transparent environment for their families. Our blog series, Keeping Kids Safe Online, offers specific tools and resources that parents can deploy to reduce risk and open a dialogue.
We continue to provide support to adult victims of childhoods sexual abuse, whose struggle to heal may be impacted in these traumatic times. Our counseling grants program provides financial support to licensed therapists who treat the adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Throughout the year, No More Stolen Childhoods engages with nonprofit partners, survivors’ groups and community members in our effort to open the important conversations surrounding childhood sexual abuse prevention. I encourage you to stay connected with us, to utilize our resources to increase your knowledge, and, please, share these tools with others. Together, as advocates for children and adult survivors, we can build a community that allows each of us to live the safe and healthy life we all deserve.