PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)–April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and throughout the pandemic, child abuse trends have gone up. With children spending more time at home and less time around teachers and friends, experts say they aren’t always getting the attention they need.
For children, the combination of remote learning and social distancing often means limited time in the public eye.
“Child abuse continued to happen but it wasn’t reported like it used to be,” said Lori Allen, the Executive Director for the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center.
Allen runs the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center which has been helping victims of child abuse and sexual violence since 2000. She says in the first month of the pandemic, calls to the Florida Abuse Hot-Line diminished by 40%.
“It was very concerning because we knew there were children who were suffering in silence,” Allen said.
Typically, when children are in school, educators can recognize signs of abuse and get children help. But when many students turned to remote learning, they lost that added layer of protection.
“If you can’t see then you can’t report. And that is something that we certainly have a lot of concern over here at the Child Advocacy Center,” Allen said.
Since most local children have re-entered school, Allen says their workload has gone up.
In the first three months of 2021, her Outreach Team recognized 41 new victims. In March alone, her Child Victim Advocates managed 399 total cases. 150 of those were added just in March.
But as the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center works tirelessly through the pandemic, they now have a new tool in their arsenal. Their new therapy house opened this past February.
“Already I was just looking at the numbers from this quarter and an average of 400 individuals are utilizing that space already,” Allen said.
While National Child Abuse Prevention Month ends this Friday, education is important every month. To learn what resources are available for victims locally, visit https://www.gulfcoastcac.org/default.aspx