Shelter in Place Order’s Impact on Child Abuse and Domestic Violence

Illustration: Mazie Neill · The Sentry Domestic violence victims have resources available during quarantine.

Illustration: Mazie Neill · The Sentry
Domestic violence victims have resources available during quarantine.
Sharp drop in reports of abuse and domestic violence prompt statewide concern

With the recent institution of shelter in place orders across Colorado, this is being portrayed as a time best spent with family. For children in abusive homes as well the adults experiencing domestic abuse, these sentiments don’t ring true, however. In the days since shelter in place orders began, the number of calls received by the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline fell by 40%, while domestic violence calls to Denver police have decline somewhat, down from 585 to 528.

Given the orders Coloradans are under, many have been left wondering how to still look out for at risk individuals in their communities. Colette Hohnbaum Ph.D., a school psychology professor at CU Denver, shared her insights regarding child abuse reporting during these challenging times. She emphasized that while reporting goes down any time schools are not in session that there is a greater concern right now given that this is a high stress time and abuse tends to go up when people are stressed.  For those reasons, Hohnbaum  believes that teachers need to be sensitive to students who are having difficulty managing not seeing their friends and or completing work. In her words, “It’s is a balancing act because you want kids to know that you care and that learning is important while at the same time not contributing stress to the family and child because of academic demands.”

She mentioned that in addition to teachers having regular zoom or video chat meetings which helps them remain in continued contact with potentially vulnerable students, that there are some things communities can do to help out as well. These include sidewalk chalk art projects or instituting “Teddy Bear Hunts” in which kids can look for teddy bears or other stuffed animals their neighbors have placed in their windows. Activities such as these are encouraged as they help families to get outside rather than being cooped up, allow for physical distancing, and also let other people outside the home actually see kids. She also mentioned that it is important for individuals to know that anyone can still report suspected abuse even with the social distancing and current shelter in place orders. She suggests those with concerns refer to the Colorado Department of Human Services website, which outlines how to report abuse as well as how to recognize the signs.

Katherine Miller, Victim Services Coordinator at the Phoenix Center at Auraria, explains what the PCA is doing to support victims of domestic violence at this time. According to Miller, the PCA’s Crisis The Phoenix Center at Auraria is currently operating remotely and continues to offer advocacy appointments for survivors via phone or Zoom Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm, as well through the 24/7 crisis helpline.

More than anything during these trying times, friends and families can do their part by checking in on the loved ones in their lives, and should not be afraid to report suspected concerns, as it may just save a life.

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