When there is an additional stress in the home like during COVID-19, children are at increased risk of violence and abuse.
I can relate. I was adopted and grew up in an incredibly abusive environment. My child-size body and mind had been violated on every level. At age 17, I escaped by jumping through a bedroom window.
School was my “Safe Haven.” While my classmates looked forward to weekends and holidays, I dreaded them. As a child, It was my only safe place!
School has always been a safe haven for many children. Children who are being physically, mentally or sexually abused, experiencing family violence or neglect, no longer have that safe refuge, or access to a trusted adult. COVID-19 has snatched that safety blanket from underneath them. It’s heartbreaking to imagine the irreversible damage that is happening in many homes right now… Every. Single. Day.
What can we do? We all share in the responsibility of protecting children. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, family friends, teachers, neighbours, etc…, should start by reaching out to the children within their circles. There are plenty of ways to connect, and if available to you, I recommend using video calling options.
Create a routine where you can check in regularly and maybe even do activities together while chatting. Children will look forward to the interactions and at the same time, they will not feel so alone.
We should also check in with the parents and caregivers to see how they are coping or if they need anything. A show of support for them during this time might go a long way.
Children are the most vulnerable members of our community. If living in a violent or abusive home, they are already carrying enough weight on their shoulders. They should not be expected to bear the responsibility of reaching out to protect themselves or their siblings.
As adults, it is our responsibility to protect children. All too often, we see people come forward after a child has been seriously injured or even killed to say they had suspected something was going on. Clearly, that is too little, too late.
As a child abuse survivor, I vividly remember what it was like to be trapped in an abusive house. Now, my heart hurts for children who are currently held up in isolation with their abusers. It is an unimaginable pain, and with schools not opening any time soon, it is a devastating reality that many children must now endure.
We’ve all heard the expression, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it also takes a village to protect them. Protecting children is not only a legal responsibility, it is a moral one. If you suspect a child is currently living in an unsafe/unhealthy environment, please reach out and offer support. Don’t wait until it’s too late. You may be a child’s only hope.
If you believe a child or youth is in need of protective intervention, you are required by law to report it. Call your local child protection agency or contact your local police. If a child in immediate danger, call 911 or your local police detachment.
Bev Moore Davis
Miles for Smiles Foundation