Sexual abuse, physical and psychological abuse, grooming, neglect.
The list goes on. Those are just some of the violence against children and adolescents that, according to childhood specialists,
they are at high risk of increasing
within the framework of the quarantine imposed by COVID-19.
For many minors,
their homes are far from being the safest place.
Paula Wachter, Founder and CEO of
Network for Children
, stresses: “The home would seem to be ideally the place of greatest protection for a boy or girl, but unfortunately it may be the highest risk if we consider, for example, that
between 70 and 80% of sexual abuse cases are intrafamilial
In order to make the problem visible, the coalition
Childhood in Debt
launched a campaign to warn about the dramatic situation of thousands of children and adolescents. With
are offering on their social networks
recommendations to prevent violence during quarantine (
On the other hand, from the
-a joint action of the European Union and the United Nations aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls- talk about
, underlining that
In global emergencies such as COVID-19, the rates of childhood abuse and maltreatment increase.
The referents consulted by
agree on the diagnosis:
with schools closed and health centers focused on attending the health emergency, the vulnerability of boys and girls is even more invisible
, since these are two key spaces in the detection of cases of violence. Furthermore, the isolation of the family group -where the levels of stress and economic uncertainty increased- can not only deepen pre-existing situations of abuse, but also promote the conditions for new violence to develop, which are more difficult to report today.
For this reason, they state that the priority is to generate community networks for prevention, detection and intervention, emphasizing the important role that each member of society plays in being alert and reporting.
Marisa Graham, Advocate for Children and Adolescents, emphasizes that the current extraordinary situation presents enormous challenges. Although he points out that free help lines, such as 102 – for advice on the rights of boys and girls – play an important role, he warns: ”
One of the modus operandi of the violent is the isolation of their victims. Quarantine reinforces it.
Accessing these numbers is not always possible for the victim who is living with his aggressor. ”
We need more than ever the neighbors, the building manager, those who sell food and neighborhood networks. We have a duty to report
Marisa Graham, Advocate for Children and Adolescents
For the defender, it is key to generate “social and community alert” mechanisms. “We need more than ever the neighbors, the building manager, those who sell food and the neighborhood networks. That all those who are accessible to the community at this time can be key informants. When someone asks me: ‘¿ Can I report it? ‘, My answer is always:’ You must report, “says Graham.
One option is line 102. “Many times boys and girls cannot call, especially the youngest, and adults have to. We need the solidarity and solidarity of all.
What happened in Argentina is that the social fabric was broken: we have to rebuild that network so that children and adolescents are contained.
“says the defender.
In places far from urban centers, Graham considers it essential to resort to new and diverse strategies: ”
Pharmacies, for example, can be a place of complaint
. Having careful listening and empathetic attention, especially when a teenager is approaching, is key. ”
A growing trend
From Aldeas Infantiles, they emphasize that the different forms of violence suffered by girls, boys and adolescents is a historically invisible and poorly attended problem. Alejandra Perinetti, national director of the NGO, maintains: “In Argentina, more than half of boys and girls suffer violence in their daily lives. On the other hand, we have indications that this violence is deepening in contexts such as the current one , especially since families are subjected to greater demands. ” And he continues: “Many live on the informal economy, day by day, this also means that dads and moms are in a very complex situation and violence is a mode of communication that is replicated.”
In Argentina, more than half of boys and girls suffer violence in their daily lives. We have indications that this violence is deepening in contexts such as the current one.
Alejandra Perinetti, National Director of Children’s Villages
Wachter, who integrates a table of specialists in which the UN, WHO, UNICEF, End Violence Against Children and the World Bank, among other international organizations, participate, says that the increase in cases of sexual abuse is a trend observed at the level worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the referent, the quarantine made it, on the one hand, ”
increased pressure on violence that already existed in homes
“; and, on the other hand, that abuse that could previously go unnoticed became evident. As they spent more time at home, the protective adults who previously had their attention distributed on multiple tasks, began to
“sharpen your gaze, change the register and detect situations that catch your attention.”
It is as if layers of veils are beginning to fall off.
These days, the calls of protective mothers who suspect that their partners may be abusing their sons and daughters tripled:
we get six or seven a day
. That increase is replicated at the global level, “he says. Desperate requests for help come from all over the country, but above all from the suburbs. All this is exacerbated in a context in which circulation and the possibility of accessing a prosecutor’s office or making a telephone consultation is difficult.
These days, calls from protective mothers who suspect that their partners may be abusing their sons and daughters tripled: we receive six or seven a day.
Paula Wachter, Network for Children
“Many women call me from the bathroom, whispering. It is difficult to ask for help when you have the aggressor three meters away,” says the director of Red por la Infancia. “They are paralyzed -continues-. A mother told me that the daughter asks her all the time when the father is going to go to work. Imagine what it is for that boy or girl who previously had contact with the aggressor for a certain number of hours , going to be 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the abuser breathing down the neck. ”
The role of free lines
Karina Leguizamón, president of the Council of the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents of the city of Buenos Aires, says that one of the strategies implemented in conjunction with the Buenos Aires Ministry of Education to offer a tool to the youngest children, was to use a Unicef video in which, with drawings and simple and clear language, basic issues are explained to children, such as that their body is theirs and nobody has the right to touch it. “It appears on the educational platform while the children do their homework, in addition to the incentive to call line 102. Right now, the only direct mechanism is still the line, so we try to communicate it as much as possible,” he explains.
During March, line 102 opened 280 case files referring to children and adolescents. So far in April, there are already 100.
Hernán Monath, specialist in protection of rights of Unicef, stresses that from that organization they seek to monitor what happens with the operation of the lines of attention to boys and girls throughout the country. “Some provinces have lines to communicate doubts, evacuate questions or make complaints, but many do not attend 24 hours or cannot generate a quick response in the territory. Another issue that should be prioritized is the attention of protection agencies through social networks, a channel widely used by boys and girls, “he warns. For Monath, the infrastructure of the children’s organizations has insufficient resources and he believes that this could be a good time to reinforce it.
For Wachter, the isolation becomes more evident “the lack of coordinated and effective public policies”. “The pandemic puts more pressure on a State that was already giving a very poor response, which was late and ran behind this problem of sexual abuse against children and adolescents,” he says. And he concludes:
“In this context, we urgently need to address community responses. The situation is a time bomb.”