COVID-19 causing concern for increase of child abuse cases

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Experts are concerned the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a spike in child abuse cases around the nation and here in southcentral Kentucky.

Families facing financial, emotional and other stresses while spending long periods of time at home can leave some children in potentially dangerous situations.

Major Brian Harrell, president of the BRACAC’s board of directors and Bowling Green police officer, says people spending long periods of time at home could cause a spike in child abuse cases.

“Oftentimes the abuser is in the home with them having daily access to them and school is an escape from that. With school being out it is possible, given those circumstances, that cases could go up,” said Harrell.

And it doesn’t help that for the past two years, Kentucky has had the highest child abuse rate in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau.

In 2018, more than 2.3% of children in the Commonwealth suffered some type of abuse.

The average for the United States is .92%.

BRACAC’s Anna D’Herde concerned for the welfare of some of the children in the area.

“During this time while we are social distancing, those abusers are home and have more opportunity to abuse children,” said D’Herde.

Representatives from the Barren River Area Child Advocacy Center say this time at home can be hard for some children, but neighbors, friends, and family can watch for red flags.

“Being observant of physical abuse cases, of injuries, and of sexual abuse cases, of statements and sometimes injuries as well. Even it is just merely suspicious can be important to report to the proper authorities,” said Harrell.

“If you see a change in behavior, maybe the child was very playful and had a lot of energy, and then suddenly there is a shift and the child is no longer being very active and playful and now they are acting very sad and withdrawn, that’s a red flag,” said D’Herde.

Officials say it’s too early to tell if they’ve seen a local uptick in child abuse cases since the pandemic began.

In Kentucky, the number to call to report suspected child abuse is (877) KY-SAFE1 (597-2331).

The National Child Abuse Hotline, (800) 4-A-CHILD (422-4453), offers professional crisis counselors who can provide intervention, information and referrals to emergency, social service and support resources. Calls are confidential.