GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The stay-at-home order meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus may also be putting more children within reach of predators.
The executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County said her office is working as hard as ever during the Stay Home, Stay Safe order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“Big impact… We’re busy here actually, which is not so great,” Melissa Werkman, the CAC’s executive director, told News 8. “Our numbers over the last couple of weeks are really showing that there is a significantly higher risk for kids.”
The CAC reports taking in three or four new cases of sexual abuse each day.
Werkman said she believes children spending more time at home and using technology to communicate places them at higher risk of being sexually abused. Additionally, she pointed out that parents have been forced to find creative solutions for child care and it’s likely that some children are being placed in less-than-ideal situations.
“(Technology is) being utilized so ubiquitously for school and to connect with friends and family and often times — not necessarily by choice — kids are unsupervised more than ever,” Werkman said. “Predators know kids are home and on technology a lot right now.”
The CAC says it is putting systems in place to closely monitor intake numbers during the stay-at-home order so the authorities can respond to trends appropriately.
CAC leaders suggest parents closely monitor how children are using technology, consider disabling location and messaging services on electronic devices, and have conversations with children about the differences between appropriate and inappropriate touch.
Parents should also believe children who say they are being abused because in the vast majority of cases, they are telling the truth, Workman said.
Those who suspect a child is being abused are asked to contact Children’s Protective Services at 1.855.444.3911 or their local police department.
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County offers resources online at CAC-Kent.org.