Child abuse on the rise, spike in reports of severe physical abuse


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Those with the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse are noticing an alarming trend showing up over the last 6 to 8 weeks.

Executive Director, Colleen Merced, said they are seeing a spike in reports of severe physical abuse.

Last spring, when schools shut down, the number of reports dropped. Those at the center attribute that to the fact that teachers, bus drivers, and social workers are normally the ones reporting that abuse. So when the kids weren’t at school anymore, there was no one to see and then report that abuse.

“A lot of children who we see who’ve been abused, it’s somebody they know. Somebody at home within their family. It’s not a stranger, danger kind of thing,” Merced said.

 Merced said the spike they are seeing now is directly related to the pandemic and the situation many families are now dealing with. Families are now stuck at home together and may be going through financial and emotional stress due to COVID-19. Since they’re dealing with so much, Merced said the threshold at which they can handle added stress has lowered. Therefore, some caregivers are losing control.

“Taking time-outs for yourself as a caregiver. So when the situation is overwhelming since we do think a lot of times it’s just a split-second decision to act out on a child, one of the things you can do is remove yourself from the situation,” said Dr. Alicia Pekarsky, Co-Medical Director of the Child Abuse Program at McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center. 

There has also been an increase in child neglect cases, Merced said. In those cases, there may be accidental injuries to the child as a result of being left alone. For example, a child may spill hot soup on themselves or a piece of furniture may fall on top of them.

Right now, the child advocacy center is focusing on outreach and awareness efforts. They’re letting parents know that if they ever feel like they are losing control of themselves, to take a deep breath and walk away.

Those caregivers are encouraged to call 211 for help and advice at any time. 

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