Here’s how to support abuse survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic | Opinion

Social workers say children may be particularly prone to neglect and abuse as the COVID pandemic strains incomes and confines families to their homes. Image Source: Andreas Neumann from Pixabay

By Emma Bailey

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has brought many aspects of our lives to a halt. Parameters like quarantining at home and social distancing in public have forced the majority of us to hold in place for the foreseeable future.

Though these restrictions have led many to spend quality time with family members and loved ones, quarantining also puts vulnerable children, partners, and families at a greater risk of child abuse and violence in households that are already volatile.

Many advocates say that bringing attention to these dangers is even more urgent now because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Children who live in abusive households are being quarantined with their abusers, with nowhere to turn in a time of crisis.

Before the pandemic, children in these environments could escape the turmoil at home by going to school, participating in after-school sports and activities, and even hanging out with friends. Now, children are isolated from the safe spaces and resources offered by teachers and other trusted allies.

A growing fear among child welfare experts is that child abuse and neglect will spike when caregivers are “pushed over the edge” amid business and school closures, job losses, and other implications of the coronavirus pandemic.

As companies shut down, parents and caregivers are at risk of having hours cut or losing their jobs completely, depleting a household’s source of income when they might have already been struggling to make ends meet.

If parents or young adult children are deemed essential workers, the fear of contracting the coronavirus could add to the uncertainty in a household that doesn’t have adequate, or any, health insurance to seek treatment.

Pa.’s child abuse hotline is now run out of employees’ homes, but receiving far fewer tips than normal

If this is the only source of income, however, families are faced with the impossible dilemma of choosing between pay or safety. The overwhelming apprehension among family members over any of these implications can heighten anxiety and tension, leading to unsafe household environments for children.

Survivors of child abuse and domestic violence who are seeking justice for the crimes committed against them are also being affected by the global pandemic.

Victim compensation funds are being suspended across the nation as a result of the “economic turmoil” brought on by the coronavirus.

As a result, victims who have filed sexual abuse claims against groups such as the Catholic Church may not receive the compensation they deserve in the near future. Other forms of victim legislation, like the New York Child Victims Act, may allow their “look-back windows” to close, preventing affected individuals from filing abuse claims amid this pandemic.

Fortunately, there are legal resources that are still available to abuse victims. Though many local and state courthouses are operating on limited schedules or are completely closed, many are transitioning to phone and video conferencing.

This allows individuals or families who are seeking protection or restraining orders to be heard by a judge in a “virtual courtroom.” Other legal organizations offer additional resources and support online for child abuse survivors looking to file suits.

Victims and survivors of abuse are not alone during this time of crisis. While many local nonprofits and shelters have closed their doors from lack of funding or staff members, national centers such as RAINN and the National Domestic Violence Hotline have 24/7 hotlines and chat services open to connect abuse victims with the resources and support they need.

More widely-known companies are also taking a stand to lend a helping hand to abuse victims in need. Uber has recently pledged to provide 10 million free rides and food deliveries to those who are most vulnerable, especially victims of abuse and violence.

In an article, Uber representative Tracey Breeden wrote, “We are partnering with domestic violence organizations and local governments in 35 cities across 16 countries to provide 50,000 free rides to shelters and safe spaces, and more than 45,000 free meals.” As the pandemic rages on, other organizations will hopefully follow suit.

During a time where many abuse victims are isolated from family, friends, and resources, it’s important to raise public awareness around abuse and assault prevention and show our support for survivors of domestic abuse. Educating yourself and those around you on the current situation that many abuse victims face can help bring attention to survivors who are in need in your community.

Sharing local resources for victims or survivors of abuse, and connecting with advocacy groups and organizations, are also ways to help those who are particularly vulnerable. We are all responsible for and capable of helping those who are in need, especially during this extremely trying time.

Emma Bailey is an advocate from AbuseLawsuit.com. Through her awareness efforts, Emma hopes to inform, empower, and connect survivors of institutional sexual abuse with the resources and information they need.