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Child abuse, domestic violence increase during pandemic, despite fewer reports to police

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 5:50 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - More women and children are being victimized in Lincoln than in years prior, despite a misleading drop in cases reported to the police.

It’s a concern advocates first had at the beginning of the pandemic, and 10/11 NOW pulled the data and found those concerns have come true.

When you look at the numbers, you’ll see child abuse cases reported to the Lincoln Police Department have dropped 35%. But Paige Piper, executive director for the Child Advocacy Center said that’s not a good thing.

“The reality is child abuse rates have stayed the same or increased, actually there’s been research saying they’ve skyrocketed.”

Piper said this is likely because there have been fewer kids in school.

“Teachers are our number one reporters,” Piper said. “They have a pulse on what’s happening with students, especially at home.”

And at the same time, stress levels have never been higher.

“Its a domino effect with the economic impact, potential stress, an inability to support your family and just the weight and concerns over the pandemic,” Piper said. “All of these factors have contributed to child abuse rates.”

It’s a similar story for domestic violence numbers.

Domestic violence reports themselves have stayed fairly steady, but protection order violation reports have gone up 42% and protection order violation arrests have increased 61% in 2020, compared to the five year average.

The executive director for Voices of Hope said this is also due to isolation and stress.

“A common tactic for abusers is isolation,” Marcee Metzger said. “So when you’re talking about someone being isolated in their homes, not going to work, their kids aren’t in school, they aren’t seeing their family in person, it’s easier for that person trying to control them with abuse to isolate them more.”

In 2020, Voices of Hope received requests for services from more than 2,600 adults and more than 300 children.

Both Voices of Hope and the Child Advocacy Center said they’re also hearing that abuse is becoming more severe.

“We’ve had emergency room nurses who have worked in the ER for ten years say these are the most serious cases they’ve ever seen come to th ER,” Metzger said.

The entire community can help. First, by breaking that isolation.

“Check in on your loved ones,” Metzger said. “This is true for domestic violence and child abuse. Because people aren’t seeing each other in person in the same way; they’re isolated in their homes. Ask questions and if you’re concerned about it, ask them.”

She said it’s important to ask those questions in a way that doesn’t put the victim’s safety in danger.

Second, believe survivors when they come forward.

It’s also important for Nebraskans to know, everyone is a mandatory reporter of child abuse. Signs to watch out for are changes in behavior or personality, weight loss, struggles in school or in social situations and unexplained injuries.

The Nebraska Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-652-1999.

If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

The 24/7 crisis line for Voices of Hope is 402-475-7273.

Two numbers for national domestic violence hotlines are 1-800-799-7233 and 866-331-9474.

The Friendship Home in Lincoln is another domestic violence resource, their crisis line number is 402-437-9302.

There is also a national sex assault hotline, that number is 1-800-656-4673.

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