April is Sexual Assault Awareness and National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to pause and remember all survivors and advocate for justice. As an advocate and survivor of rape myself, I often am keenly aware of the problems that victims face. So this year, during a time when staying at home is an order, it seems even more important to note that home is not safe for everyone.
This year has brought new challenges and changes that are unprecedented in recent times. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected each of us in some way.
While many adjust to a new life of social distancing, homeschooling, online learning, and cancelled events, some are dealing with a quieter, deadlier problem: abuse at home.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 55 percent of sexual assaults happen at or near the survivor’s home.
Of sexual abuse cases reported to law enforcement, 93 percent of juvenile victims knew the perpetrator:
- 59 percent were acquaintances
- 34 percent were family members
- just 7 percent were strangers to the victim
From 2009 to 2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate, that 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
And all of that was tracked during a time when not everyone was at home. Now, with stay-at-home orders in place, schools closed, and many social service agencies only operating via phone or internet, it is even harder for victims to speak out or, most important, to be seen and helped.
As Feminists for Life, we recognize that while we fight one public health crisis, we cannot let another one spread.
We will keep this issue in the limelight for leaders to consider as they plan the days ahead.
We do not judge how anyone is coping. (An “unnecessary” trip to the store or a solitary drive around the block might be the only means of escape, if only temporarily.)
We strongly encourage any possible witnesses to report any signs of abuse. Do you hear angry voices and screaming through apartment or townhouse walls? Is a child covering her body in an unseasonable way? Do you observe controlling body language by one adult — and fear by the other or a child?
As advocates, we ask you to please share our helpsite, WomenDeserveBetter.com, including:
- “What Do You Do When You Suspect Child Abuse?”
- “Do You Know the Signs of Intimate Partner Violence?”
- “What to Do If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted”
Because women deserve better,
Feminists for Life of America
Ms. McCauley-Benner is an FFL Speaker, Pregnancy and Parenting Resource Forum(SM) Moderator, and contributor to The American Feminist and WomenDeserveBetter.com. For the past 15-plus years, Joyce has worked as an advocate for vulnerable populations, including sex trafficking victims, domestic violence victims, and low-income families.