HONOLULU (KHON2) — A gutwrenching revelation today child abuse is up here on the islands. Experts said the pandemic and school closures have likely had a large impact in producing more cases of sexual abuse, felony physical abuse, children who witnessed a violent crime, as well as other forms of abuse.
The data comes from the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu which has placed 773 pairs of new slippers to represent the number of children they helped in 2021.
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School closures during the pandemic stopped the most common reporting of child abuse. In 2021 the center tracked 2,060 children, which is up 19% from 2020.
“As we know when COVID was happening and children were not in school, that they’re homeschooling or doing it remotely, that there’s no opportunities, especially for mandated reporters, particularly schools to report the number one mandated reporter that we get numbers from our schools, teachers, counselors,” said the Statewide Director of CJC of Hawaii Jasmine Mau Mukai.
The most common forms of abuse are sexual which makes up 37% of allegations although physical abuse and children who witness violence have also increased.
“Typically for us, we see more adults than we do kids, but the kids have slowly closed that gap. And now they are very close to exceeding adults,” said Associate Director of Sex Abuse Treatment Center Lynn Costales.
Some believe the increase could be due to decreasing stigma around reporting incidents.
If parents are looking for a way to protect their keiki, a good place to start is making sure they feel safe about revealing what happens to them.
“The importance in parent’s role in talking to their children in advocating for themselves not being afraid to tell, making choices that helps in getting rid of the stigma and increasing the occurrence of children speaking up for themselves,” said Kathy Muneno, Friends of CJC of Oahu board member.
If you’re unsure about reporting what you know officials said it could help the entire family and stop it from happening again.
“It’s not just the children, right, we have to support the families. Because if not, then the whole cycle of abuse continues,” said Mukai.
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April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. The CJC helps kids by providing groceries, clothing, beds and even dance or music lessons and sports to help children heal.