On Thursday, May 7, 2020, the National Center for Victims of Crime (“NCVC”), the National Children’s Alliance (“NCA”), and the Child Welfare League of America (“CWLA”) sent a letter to the nation’s governors asking for them to focus attention on the need to address child sexual abuse.

While there has been some attention to the concern that child abuse and neglect are likely to increase over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic due to increasing isolation, increasing financial and economic stress and children no longer in child-focused settings including schools and child care centers, the letter points out that reports of child abuse and neglect are down in some jurisdictions by as much as 70 percent.  

In the letter the three organization advise: “Governors can help curtail this issue in three very simple, yet crucial steps:

  • Discuss child abuse frankly and openly in daily press briefings. Educate “essential workers,” who are not mandated reporters, regarding the signs of child abuse and educate them as to the resources available to report child abuse.     
  • Provide resources and contacts for parents who are struggling on state websites. 
  • Run a publicity campaign through newspapers and TV ads. Encourage vigilance in both reporting and parents accessing crucial resources.”  

Child Abuse Prevention and Identification during COVID-19

Warning signs of emotional abuse:

  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong
  • Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant, demanding, passive, aggressive)
  • Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver
  • Acts either inappropriately adult-like or inappropriately infantile 

Warning signs of physical abuse:

  • Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts
  • Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen
  • Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home
  • Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days

Warning signs of child neglect:

  • Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather
  • Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor)
  • Untreated illnesses and physical injuries
  • Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations

Warning signs of sexual abuse in children:

  • Displays knowledge of sexual acts inappropriate for their age, or even seductive behavior
  • Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason
  • Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities
  • An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14
  • Runs away from home

Resources for General Public on Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect

  • Child Helpline: 1-800-422-4453

Resources for Caregivers: