Pediatricians Are Concerned about More Serious Child Abuse Cases As Pandemic Continues

by | Feb 5, 2021 | 118, Legal, Mental Health, Patient News | 0 comments

As predicted by sources in the spring, child abuse rates during coronavirus lock-down are reaching disturbing highs.  Hospitals are seeing more serious injuries in smaller and smaller victims.  The virus...

As predicted by sources in the spring, child abuse rates during coronavirus lock-down are reaching disturbing highs.  Hospitals are seeing more serious injuries in smaller and smaller victims.  The virus has not given up and as a result, the child abuse continues to increase.  

Child Abuse Facts

Statistics say 1 in 4 kids are mistreated within the home at least once in their lives, and this includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse. 16% of children who are abuse experience more than one type of abuse. Rates of child abuse are 5 times higher in children with families with low income compared to high income. 

Coronavirus and the Rise of Child Abuse

Combine that with the impact of Coronavirus which has been more than just something health related.  The effect of full worldwide lock downs has lead to mass unemployment and in general increased stress.  The majority of countries are requiring people to stay home with their families.  In places like the United States where toxic home life is sadly the norm, this could lead to disastrous results. 

“We’re seeing a surge of some kind” says Doctor Lori Frasier, Chief of Child Abuse Pediatric Division at Penn State Children’s Hospital.  They report seeing “pretty serious physical abuse injuries” in patients they describe as “young to very young” since the start of the Coronavirus lock-down. 

In 2020, from the dates January 1st to June 15th , there have been a reported 155 dead or nearly dead children in Pennsylvania due to child abuse.  In the entire year of 2019 there were 144 children who died or nearly died as a direct result of child abuse.  Sadly, this has been steadily increasing for years since about 2015, with a recorded 95 children dead or nearly dead from child abuse. 

Past Trends of Child Abuse 

“Waves of trauma” as they are called are not new however often they do seem to be linked to social or economic pressure. For example in 2008 during the economic recession there was a peak of head trauma.  

When talking about this situation in May, Frasier said this: “one of our big concerns is that in 2008 during economic stress, we were all seeing a lot of shaken baby syndrome”.  Anyone who has looked into that knows the majority of kids that experience that do not develop normally afterwards.  

There was also a study done by Rachel Berger, that was launched because they realized there were more children that died from abusive head trauma than non inflicted brain injury during the 2008 recession.  They did a study on 500 patients which ranged from ages 9 days to 6 years.  300 of them were hurt bad enough to be in the ICU, 100 of them died. 

What is considered child abuse?

Child abuse is defined as “when anyone under the age of 18 is either being harmed or not properly looked after”.  This includes but is not limited to: hitting, slapping, burning, suffocating, pushing, restraint, medicating, sexual abuse or emotional abuse. It also includes blatant neglect. 

Where is this happening?

Many of the articles found about this topic talk about the state of Pennsylvania in particular but it’s seeming that this is a nationwide problem because the lock-down is nearly nationwide. Generally stories like the ones seen about Pennsylvania are just a snapshot of what is occurring in the nation as a whole.  

Signs of Child Abuse:

unexplained injuries

fear of physical contact



personality changes 

being isolated or withdrawn

reduced physical, mental and emotional development

self deprecation “I’m stupid, ugly or worthless”

neurotic behavior

inappropriate response to pain. 

How to Prevent Child Abuse

Be a nurturing parent.  Make the home a no violence zone. When you see a parent struggling, do what you can to help them.  Help yourself when needed if you are the parent.  If the baby is crying but safe and clean, its ok to leave the room to gather peace for a few minutes.  Anything is better than shaking a baby.   These are just some ways to prevent child abuse from happening in the first place.  

How to Report Child Abuse

However the sad reality is most child abuse happens before someone has a chance to prevent it, especially in times where the majority of people are urged to spend their time home and nowhere else. Teachers were the main source of child abuse reports.  With school not being in session, reports have drastically dropped while the rates of serious injury increase.  

In the past advocacy centers have filled the role of helping to get abused kids out of their homes in a safe space where they can tell their story and begin to heal.  The bad thing is Coronavirus has shut these things down.  

The responsibility is left to neighbors and other passive observers to help curb the problem of these high child abuse rates. Watch the children that live around you and look for symptoms of abuse.  If you hear a child being abused or see clear signs of abuse, report this to the authorities.

Because the teachers are no longer able to do so and the victims certainly can’t speak for themselves, someone has to.  This can be done in a small way like just allowing your home to be a safe refuge for these children if you want and are determined to avoid involving the state.  A lot face stigma for the idea of calling the authorities on their neighbors but when the safety of a kid is directly involved, sometimes exceptions can be made. Part of the spike in child abuse is attributed to the fact that neighbors are too afraid to call on each other and make their living situation difficult in times of quarantine. 

For those looking for guidance on how to navigate the world in times of Covid-19, click here. 

Catherine Bonandin
Catherine Bonandin

Catherine is a yoga teacher, wild forager, and founding mother of the Homestead Guru.