With much of the country under stay-at-home orders through the spring, a disturbing rise in minors reporting abuse has been seen by the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
By the end of March, the hotline reported a 22% surge in calls by children under 18, and half of all calls came from minors, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), which operates the hotline.
Most abusers are family members
RAINN says its data shows that the majority of minors reporting abuse were living with the perpetrator. Of the young people who called the hotline in March, 67% said they were related to their abuser, and 79% said they were living with the offender. By contrast, RAINN says, overall, 34% of child sexual abusers are family members.
The organization says the escalation in abuse is directly related to lockdown orders from the coronavirus pandemic, which effectively quarantined minors with their abusers. Lockdown orders are enacted as public health and safety remedies, but home is typically not the safest place for young people targeted by abusers. RAINN says it helped minors immediately contact police in one out of every five cases.
Reporting abuse during a pandemic
RAINN says the child welfare system is still operating during the current health crisis, and abuse reports will lead to investigations. If necessary, children will be removed from a home for protection. Investigators will show up in person if the child and perpetrator are living together. An interview over video chat may result if the child and abuser are not in the same location.
Meantime, RAINN and other groups continue their efforts to improve reporting methods and opportunities for children. One solution currently being addressed with Congress is an online platform, which includes educational content as well as a mechanism for children to report abuse.