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Child abuse cases going unreported in COVID-19 crisis

The number of child abuse reports have gone down, but officials believe cases are going unreported.

MACON, Ga. — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp says that while domestic violence reports have increased during the COVID-19 crisis, the number of child abuse reports have gone down. 

The governor and others believe this is because cases could be going unreported. 

"Now with schools closed, we must stay vigilant about this problem and continue to work to remedy it," Kemp said. 

District Attorney David Cooke says he's afraid that cases are going unreported during the pandemic since teachers don't have face-to-face contact with their students.

"Because kids are having to shelter in place and not go to school, not go to church, not going to their normal activities, they aren't able to have contact with a trusted adult where they can make an outcry of abuse to," Cooke said. 

"I think we're seeing the calm before the storm," said Tanya Zellner with the Rainbow House, a child advocacy center in Warner Robins. 

Zellner says they've already seen a drop.

"We have not completed any interviews in the last three weeks to a month," Zellner said. 

Both Zellner and Cooke say the abuser is often someone who is close and has access to the child. 

"They are often stuck with the abuser who isn't going to work, and then they aren't going to school," Cooke said. "There is the likelihood that the child is being abused more than usual."

Cooke says children have to have a trusted individual to report the abuse. Often, this is a teacher.

But he says the school closings may not be the only reason for the drop in reports.

"They don't have access to their little league coach. They don't have access to their scoutmaster. They don't have access to their Sunday school teacher," Cooke said. 

Kemp and others are urging the public if you suspect a child is being abused, report it immediately.

The Georgia Child Protective Services Hotline is 1-855-GA-CHILD. They can also be reached at 1-855-422-4453.

Local resources are the Crescent House and the Rainbow House

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