'We're terrified:' Child abuse not being reported, but children remain at risk during pandemic

’We’re terrified: ’ Child abuse not being reported, but children remain at risk during pandemic

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Not everyone is safer at home during these times. In fact, advocates fear an increase in child abuse cases.

They say it’s during times of crisis like the pandemic, abuse increases.

According to data from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, reported child abuse dropped by almost 50-percent after the first two weeks schools closed statewide.

“We’re terrified,” said Elizabeth Champion, executive director of Child Advocacy Centers of Wisconsin. “We know not everyone is safer at home. We know that vulnerable children who might be with caregivers who are facing economic stress, children might be more at risk than ever, so it’s very scary.”

With children not in classrooms, mandated reporters such as teachers can’t report abuse.

“Obviously, with schools being closed, teachers have less access to children, and the reports have absolutely plummeted. So we know that while children are likely being abused, those reports are not coming in.”

Advocates say it’s the responsibility of every adult to look out for innocent children. “It’s not an accusation; you don’t need proof of something. If it feels like in your gut a child is not safe, it is better to report that,” Champion said.

There are different kinds of abuse – physical, sexual, neglect, drug endangerment, sex trafficking. There are signs to look for. “Touching, definitely look out for that, bruises or bite marks, burn injuries…sometimes that a child can’t explain.”

Champion adds simply asking a child, ‘are you safe?’ can also help.

Advocates worry once children go back to the school, the system will be completely overwhelmed and it was already stressed.

To report child abuse, CLICK HERE. You can also call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800- 422-4453.

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