What you can do to help prevent child abuse during stressful times

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Reports of domestic violence are up, but officials say reports of child abuse are down. So does that mean there’s a decrease of child abuse taking place? Unfortunately not. According to Laurieann Thorpe, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Utah, the organization thinks the abuse is simply less visible, creating a very dangerous situation for children.

Thorpe says that family stressors are high due to The Coronavirus pandemic, other current events and environmental factors. The statewide child abuse prevention education organization says it is important for adults to create a safe space for children, but it is particularly important to pay extra attention to protecting children during difficult, challenging times.

PCAU says it’s vital to report abuse, even if you just suspect abuse of a child. Recognizing the signs of abuse can be challenging during times when people are socially and physically distancing themselves, school is not in session and people are spending more time isolated at home. Thorpe says despite the challenge, it is important to look for the signs of abuse. She recommends monitoring a child’s behavior when you see them out in public, perhaps playing in the yard or in a park, paying close attention to their mood and behavior. Also, monitoring family pets and how pets are treated by their owners could give some insight as to whether abuse is happening to a child in that household.

PCAU teaches three primary safety rules:

  • Recognize – Listen to your “Uh-oh” feeling.
  • Resist – Say “no”.
  • Report – Tell a trusted adult.

Thorpe also says it is important for adults to take care of their own mental health, making sure they have healthy coping mechanisms in place to deal with anxiety and stress.

If you suspect abuse of a child, contact the Utah Department of Human Services, DCFS, by calling the abuse hotline at 1-855-323-3237 or via the DCFS website. You can also find Prevent Child Abuse Utah on Facebook.

The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted fundraising and Prevent Child Abuse Utah’s traditional prevention education methods – teaching prevention tools to students and adults in schools and other organizations. If you’d like to support PCAU or to learn more about Child Abuse Prevention, visit PCAU’s website.

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