The Silent COVID-19 Toll: Calls to Sexual Abuse Hotline by Minors Skyrockets

Headlines like these are truly disconcerting, aren’t they? We wish that we did not have to read them but it is not a perfect world that we are living in. The logic is simple, though. Now that there are more children stuck at home with unfit guardians, they are experiencing a greater volume of abuse.

It breaks our heart to see this. The current situation is leading to a much larger amount of calls to sexual abuse hotlines. These operators are doing the best that they can under the circumstances. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is here to help any child that is looking for assistance.

The statistics that were compiled for the month of March are sobering. The increase in monthly calls is staggering. A 22 percent increase should be enough to give anyone serious pause. This increase took place among callers who are under the age of 18. Half of all calls that were taken during the month of March came from minors.

By the end of March, with much of the country under lockdown, there was a 22% increase in monthly calls from people younger than 18, and half of all incoming contacts were from minors. That’s a first in RAINN’s history, Camille Cooper, the organization’s vice president of public policy, tells NPR.

Of those young people who contacted the hotline in March, 67% identified their perpetrator as a family member and 79% said they were currently living with that perpetrator. In 1 out of 5 cases where the minor was living with their abuser, RAINN assisted the minor in immediately contacting police.

“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,” Cooper says. “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.”

This is the first time that the hotline has seen such numbers and it is hard not to attribute them to the quarantine. For every child who is psyched to stay home and not have to go to school, there are others who are stuck in the house with a parent or guardian who does not have their best interests at heart.

Of all the calls that the hotline received during the month of March, 67 percent were willing to identify their abuser as a family member. 79 percent of the callers are currently stuck living with the alleged abuser. In 20 percent of these cases, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network representatives were able to contact the police and assist the child in question.

The abuse that these children are experiencing is only going to get worse as time goes on. We cannot begin to imagine the level of fear that these children are experiencing. They are being forced to live in quarantine with their abuser and these poor children do not have any level of recourse. If not for these hotlines, they would not have anyone to talk to about the issues that they are experiencing.

Since the lockdown did not begin until we were well into March, we shudder to think of how the numbers are going to look next month when these abusers have had a full month to behave in a despicable manner. The police can still be contacted for assistance during the lockdown period, which is a major plus.

Sadly, this is not the only form of abuse that is continuing to surge during the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Kingdom has issued some terrifying reports about their revenge porn hotline. The BBC says that the number of calls to this hotline have gone up dramatically since the lockdown began. The connection is not as easy to put together here but it is not hard to make the link between these calls and the number of people who are quarantined.

People are far more stressed out and they also have way more free time on their hands right now. It’s a bad combination that is going to lead to some frightening statistics. These are the ripple effects that no one took the time to consider before issuing these sweeping lockdown orders. While they are certainly necessary from a medical standpoint, there is a sizable amount of collateral damage taking place.

Meanwhile, the number of domestic violence cases has actually dropped significantly. These numbers are falling more rapidly than overall crime. While some may want to point to these numbers as a plus, there are certain factors that need to be taken into account. Domestic violence victims may not be as quick to seek help during this time.

That’s because they could be unable to receive it, even if they were willing to contact the authorities. Survivors are always going to weigh the cost of seeking help against the potential benefits that they are going to gain. Some may feel that they are better off enduring the abuse, as opposed to heading to a shelter where coronavirus could be spreading.

It’s hard to know the exact reasons for these numbers but police officers are trying the best to make sense of it all. We sincerely hope that none of our readers are currently being forced to endure an abusive living situation. If you are in need of help, please be sure to contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Dial 800.656.HOPE if you are looking to contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

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