Pandemic causes uptick in child abuse cases and challenges in reporting abuse


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Human Services (DHS) said they believe cases of child abuse increased during the pandemic despite a decline in the number of cases reported during that time.

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The pandemic forced families to shelter in place. This requires kids to stay home and attend school online.

Experts said the pandemic created the perfect environment for abuse to occur as many are stuck at home unable to get away from their abusers.

“It is our absolute conviction that more people are being hurt behind closed doors and have no way of asking for help,” Domestic Violence Action Center CEO Nanci Kriedman explained.

DHS Child Welfare Services Branch Administrator Elladine Olevao said higher stress levels and the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic elevated the risk associated with abuse.

“We noticed that there’s more unfortunate, unable to even meet the very basic essential needs, like rent and food, and that’s huge, huge stressors for our families,” Olevao explained.

According to the Amercian Academy of Pediatrics, children are especially vulnerable during disasters and pandemics.

Despite signs that point to increases in cases of child abuse, statistics from DHS Child Welfare Services Branch show the number of reports of abuse actually declined during the pandemic.

Reported cases dropped significantly from 266 in March to 179 in April. The difference is also clear when you compare April 2019 reported cases of 232 to April 2020’s 179.

“Our numbers were pretty significant,” Olevao said. “Then we got hit with the pandemic. Then we saw this dip in our numbers. Then doing the stay at home orders, it stayed pretty low. Then now as we started to open up, it starts to use an upswing in those numbers.”

Kreidman said there were fewer reports because kids didn’t interact with people who usually report cases of abuse.

“Many of the children who are victims of child abuse, have that abuse discovered at school, or in after school programs, or in church, settings and clergy person,” Kreidman said. “I recognize. So again, without children, going to any of those three places, their bruises, or their emotional state, or they’re acting out behaviors, wouldn’t be evident to anybody else.”

“We know that without those extra eyes and ears, there were children that could possibly be abused at home behind closed doors,” Olevao said.

Olevao said the community needs to be vigilant and help protect and prevent abuse.

“We got to maka’ala,” Olevao said. “We got to watch. If we see something, we got to call in. We all have a responsibility to watch out and take care of each other and take care of each other’s children.”

To report child abuse or neglect call 808-832-5300.

To report child trafficking call 808-832-1999.

To contact the Domestic Violence Action Center, call 1-800-690-6200 or text 605-956-5680.

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