The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on millions of Americans. Aside from unemployment, health battles, and the inability to find groceries or household cleaning items, the most insidious statistic may be how the number of child sexual abuse reports rose during the pandemic across the country. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), the number of minors contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline greatly increased during the country-wide pandemic.

Numbers increased greatly by the end of March

Most of the country was under some form of lockdown by the end of March, and that’s when RAINN saw a 22 percent increase in calls made to the hotline by people under the age of 18 for sexual assault complaints. RAINN reported that half of all the complaints lodged in March were done so by people considered minors. This was the first time that RAINN saw an increase of this proportion in its history.

Camille Cooper, vice-president of public policy for RAINN, commented, “As a result of looking at the information that we had from those sessions, it was clear that the abuse was escalating in both frequency and severity. So a lot of the kids that were coming to the hotline were feeling pretty vulnerable and traumatized. And it was a direct result of COVID-19 because they were quarantined with their abuser. The abuser was now abusing them on a daily basis.”

What the data shows

Of the minors who called the hotline in March, 67 percent reported that the sexual abuse came from a family member and 79 percent of minors said that they were living with the person who committed the abuse at the time they made the call. In one out of every five cases in which the caller said he or she was living with the perpetrator, RAINN helped the caller immediately contact the police. Cooper noted that the occurrence of calls showed that the victims were experiencing repeated abuse during the lockdown.

The lockdown worsened situations for many victims

According to RAINN, the coronavirus lockdown made many situations for victims much worse because they are not always safer at home. The minors no longer had access to mandatory reporters of child sexual abuse, such as teachers, nurses, and school administrators since schools were forced to move all learning remotely. Cooper did confirm that the child welfare system across the country continued to operate during the pandemic lockdown. This means that investigations were still taking place and children were removed from their homes if warranted.

North Carolina’s response to sexual abuse during COVID-19

The response to the increase in sexual abuse complaints in North Carolina led government leaders in the state, as well as hospital officials, to change how they get help to survivors. Some of the changes included the following:

  • Added a web chat feature to the website of InterAct so survivors can reach out anonymously
  • Virtual case management
  • Continued to provide access to sexual assault nurse examiners
  • Provided COVID-19 screenings if survivors visit hospitals for treatment

Warren & Kallianos, PLLC fights to protect victims of sexual assault. If you or your child was harmed, we offer a safe location to discuss any potential claim. Please call us in Charlotte today at 704-377-7777 or complete our contact form at your convenience.