LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- Hearts of Hope is Acadiana’s crisis center for child abuse victims.
They say during Governor John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order, child abuse reports have been down by over 300%.
“Last year from March 1 to April 20, we did 54 child interviews in our office. This year, in that same time period, we’ve done 17,” Amidie Shaw with Hearts of Hope said.
Hearts of Hope interviews over 500 abused children every year to help provide a safe place for them to live.
Shaw says stay-at-home orders are allowing child neglect to continue behind closed doors.
“The more eyes that are on a child and the more potential safe places there are that they can speak to an adult that can help them, the better the odds are of something getting reported,” Shaw said.
She says many times, supervisors at school report signs of abuse, but children are staying home.
“When you take a child who would normally have everyone from say a bus driver to a group of teachers, coaches, extra-curricular people, neighbors, dog-walkers, pick your audience. They would normally have all of these eyes on them,” she added.
She says normally, these people would be an outlet for help and safety for the children.
“Then you add to that, what if the perpetrator is in the home, which so often they are, and it just makes for kind of the perfect storm of secrecy and silence,” Shaw told News 10.
She says overall, child abuse reports are down, but that doesn’t mean its not happening.
In fact, it could be getting worse, as stress amid the COVID-19 pandemic could trigger an abuser’s stressors.
“It just exacerbates all of that. There’s isolation. There’s frustration. There can be resentment, annoyances, and for people who already do not have the coping skills to deal with those things, it can be overwhelming,” she said.
If you or a loved one is experiencing child abuse, you can call 233-7273 for help. The crisis hotline is open 24-hours a day.
Louisiana also has two toll-free help lines that can provide support for families and individuals in need.
The Keep Call Through COVID Hotline, 1-866-310-7977, offers confidential crisis counseling 24/7.
The Kidline, 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373), offers confidential parenting support, information and referrals 24/7.
If someone suspects a child in Louisiana is being abused or neglected, you can call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-855-4LA-KIDS (1-855-452-5437).