There is a less visible side to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes the intersection between domestic violence and child abuse.
"There is a very strong leap between domestic violence and child abuse,” said Judge Caroll Kelly, with the Miami-Dade Domestic Violence Division.
Kelly said the two issues often go hand in hand and her division has noticed some changes when it comes to reports of abuse in the middle of this pandemic.
“Abusers are very controlling, manipulative, they monitor their victims so victims are stuck in a home, quarantined, isolated with the abuser and that makes many victims unable to reach out for help,” said Kelly. “We saw a steep decline in the number of individuals that were accessing the courts in April and in May and our numbers are coming out for June right now.”
Amigos for Kids has been offering virtual and concrete support working with families to prevent child abuse. They are even doing COVID relief efforts like grocery deliveries, as financial stressors like putting food on a table or a job loss due to the pandemic can lead to a bad combination of overwhelmed parents.
“Really at the heart of what we do is the idea that strengthening families and supporting them to build on protective factors is the best way to prevent child abuse from happening in the first place,” said Karina Pavone, Executive Director of Amigos for Kids.
Pavone said that according to recent reports from the Department of Children and Families, calls to the child abuse hotline went down 30 to 35 percent compared to this time last year. Experts said that’s not a good sign.
“Just because calls aren’t happening doesn’t mean that abuse isn’t happening,” said Pavone.
Pavone suspects those low numbers are because abuse is more likely to go unreported or unnoticed as children spend more time at home.
"Many of us in the child welfare system speculate that it’s because there are fewer eyes on the kids due to school closures and stay at home orders,” said Pavone. “Having less interaction creates a situation where young people are less able to tell a teacher, a neighbor or a trusted adult what they’re experiencing or what’s happening.”
The Women’s Fund of Miami Dade has also started a visual campaign to break the silence of abuse and domestic violence. In partnership with Citrus Health Network, they are putting up images across Miami on buses, billboards, bus shelters and the Metrorail.
“The whole pandemic situation has been very stressful and that stress builds on itself and increases the possibilities of there being abuse in a home. It interferes with the ability for the parent that is being abused to properly care for their children and so the child ends up neglected,” said Leslie Veiga, Communications Director with Citrus Health Network, Inc.
If you are a victim of abuse and domestic violence or to report an instance of abuse, you are not alone and these resources can help:
National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
Florida Domestic Violence 24-Hour Crisis Hotline1-800-500-1119
Florida Abuse Hotline (Children and Vulnerable Adults)
Jackson Health Roxcy Bolton Rate Treatment Center/Rape Hotline
Miami-Dade County Coordinated Victims Assistance Center
Women’s Fund Community Resources Listing: https://womensfundmiami.org/resources/
Miami-Dade Advocates for Victims Hotline
Safespace Foundation, Inc.
24/7 Crisis Hotline: 1.800.500.1119
Advocates for Victims/Safespace Hotline - North305-758-2546
Advocates for Victims/Safespace Hotline - South
Junior League of Miami- Inn Transition Program
Inn Transition Program - North305-899-4600
Inn Transition Program - South