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Self-isolated with an abuser? Help is available


Family abuse is a serious problem. Police, the courts and non-profit agencies have spent years developing ways to help the victims. In the wake of coronavirus, their concerns have turned to victims being self-isolated with their abusers.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is also a time of the continuing scourge of domestic violence involving adults. All of them are locked into the house, with very limited opportunities to get out and ease the togetherness of the COVID-19 crisis.

It is a pressure cooker on the domestic level, repeated millions of times.

The signs of efforts to do something will be obvious as the Child Advocacy Center at BestSelf is asking everyone to wear blue, the color of child abuse awareness. Director Rebecca Stevens said there is no social distancing in these cases.

"We know that 90% of children are abused by someone that they know, love and trust. Because those abusers, in order to hurt the child, have to have access to them," Stevens said. "In these times, where we're self-isolating or being quarantined, children may have, unfortunately, been quarantined into a home with their abuser, with no outlook or outlet to ask for help."

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said this togetherness problem applies to adults, also. Because of the quarantines, victims will not have the assistance that co-workers and others can offer.

"A friend, a family member, a co-worker, they notice you distraught, they notice bruising, they notice that you're withdrawn," Flynn said. "And, so, if friends and family and co-workers are not seeing a victim and they're just held there because we're self-containing ourself in our home, my concern is that they're not going to be able to reach out for help."

"Only 12% of parents call Child Protection and report that something might be happening in their homes," said Stevens. "Usually, reports come in from social workers, from school teachers, from day care centers or from law enforcement. And, in times like these, none of those professionals have access to the kids, so the kids don't have anywhere to go for help."

Credit Erie County

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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