National Child Protection Council (NCPC) Co-Chairperson Dr. Novia Carter-Lookie said the council is worried about children who may be potentially exposed to “a lot more domestic violence or sexual abuse” because of the curfew and lockdown measures implemented by the government to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The country has been under a 24-hour curfew and weekend lockdowns since mid-March.
Speaking during a Ministry of Health Virtual Town Hall on “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Children of the Nation” on Friday night, Carter-Lookie called attention to the proximity children in abusive homes now have with their abusers.
“I think what that calls to is to also look at how some kids during this time, the stay-at-home orders, also results in a lot of kids being abused as well, because now with the intimacy level being a lot more tighter, you’re going to have a lot more kids who are exposed to parents who may have mental issues,” she said.
“You may have children who are now exposed to a lot more domestic violence or child sexual abuse, and you may also have children who may now witness a lot of substance abuse in the home.
“So, it’s going to be important for that parent who is not involved in any of those negative behaviors to almost find a way as, ‘How do I still safeguard my child during these kinds of incidents?’
“So that is a very major challenge that we have, being in close proximity during this order.”
Under the emergency COVID-19 orders, schools and most businesses have been closed since mid-March.
The country also remains under a 24-hour mandatory curfew and weekend-long lockdowns until the end of May, leaving victims at home with their abusers.
When asked what people can do if they know a child is at risk of being abused, Carter-Lookie said, “Well the biggest thing that you could do at that point in time was contact the Department of Social Services…
“[M]ake that call so that the department could either send a social worker in to investigate and, if needs be, to remove the child. But always our hope is always to make sure that we keep families intact, and we strengthen families so that the children could remain in that environment.
“But if the environment is harmful to the child, then the department will take the necessary steps.”