COLORADO SPRINGS — COVID-19 has closed the physical doors at domestic and child abuse shelters in El Paso County however the advocacy groups of the Department of Human Services and TESSA want people to know they are open at all times for people who need their help.
Concern among each group is rising over the past few weeks as reports of child abuse have dropped 43 percent in El Paso County. DHS reports it’s similar to the reports the agency receives during summer and its experts believe, it in no way indicates child abuse is decreasing in the community.
“We may see an increase in situations like domestic violence or child abuse and neglect if children don’t have child care or if families are under stress because schools are closed,” Director of El Paso County Department of Human Services Julie Krow said. “This time is a little different because children might not be community visible.”
Crow said that makes it more critical for the general public to look out for signs of abuse.
CO4Kids.org reports 40 percent of calls of child abuse came from “mandatory reporters” who are people like teachers and child care operators. In March, the group noted a drop of 783 calls in just one week.
“Having children out of school does create an additional risk, and that’s why we are stressing if the public sees child abuse or neglect, or suspects it, they pick up the phone and call,” Krow added.
The number to report child abuse 24/7 is 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437).
Krow says anyone can look for the signs of abuse, even outside of obvious physical marks.
She said it could be paying attention to yelling from home, noticing substance abuse, or reaching out to someone who might be in an abusive situation.
“If it is safe, pick up the phone, send a text,” TESSA Interim Executive Director Anne Markley said. “It’s not as easy to drive over to someone’s house to check in on them right now, given the distancing we’re being asked to do, but just a simple text or phone call: ‘I’m thinking about you, is there anything I can do for you? Any way I can be helping right now?'”
TESSA has recently expanded the number of active phone numbers for caseworkers. Markley fears people will feel isolated away from their typical support systems and hopes that added availability will allow those people to continue to get the help that they need.
As with DHS, Markley doesn’t believe a drop in reports means domestic or child abuse is happening any less. Still, the stresses brought on by the COVID–19 coronavirus in the ways of social isolation and layoffs in multiple industries may actually increase the instances.
“The root cause of domestic violence is still present, but these stressors can put, obviously, more strain on the relationship which could, in turn, exacerbate any situation that might be already there,” she said.
Markley and Krow emphasize their departments are still open.
To report child abuse 24/7, call 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437).
TESSA’s 24/7 Safe Line is 719-633-3819. Advocates can be reached Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the following numbers:
People living in rural areas can call:
- 719-243-4833 (Eastern)
- 719-243-5508 (Eastern & Teller)
- 719-822-3033 (Teller)