(TMU) — As the United States and the entire world become enveloped in the worst pandemic in a century, many have embraced self-isolating and sheltering in place as a basic responsibility to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. However, for many of the most vulnerable—such as children—home can be the most unsafe place due to domestic violence and abuse
Nothing is more important for the development of children into well-functioning, responsible, and healthy adults than a secure and nurturing home. But the crisis unleashed by CoViD-19 has posed an acute risk of sexual abuse to children, child advocates told Huffington Post.
Since March, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) has noticed a sharp increase in minors reporting sexual violence, according to RAINN President Scott Berkowitz. The rise in sexual abuse coincides with the period in which most state governments implemented shelter-in-place measures.
“Last month, for the first time ever, a majority of RAINN’s sexual abuse hotline users were minors.”
Child Sex Abuse Reports Spike As Country Shelters In Place, Advocates Say
In March, for the first time, the majority of RAINN’s sexual abuse hotline users were minors.https://t.co/iOPWK9CpRV
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) April 8, 2020
Much of the problem is due to the fact that children who normally rely on other adults as safety insurance against abusers simply can’t escape their homes.
“So many minors are now locked at home with their abuser, in the same house … The safety net that they had―the parents and teachers and coaches that they would see every day who were likely the first people to notice signs of abuse―children no longer have contact with those people right now.”
Over half of those calling RAINN’s hotline in March were minors under the age of 18. Of those children, 67 percent accused a family member of sexually assaulting them while 79 percent of that group said that they lived with the perpetrator. The group’s victim service programs assist 25,000 people per month, on average.
#DoDSafeHelpline supports survivors of sexual assault in the DoD community today and every day. Connect with Safe Helpline anytime, anywhere at https://t.co/svDMXfqd8S or 877-995-5247 #SAAPM2020 pic.twitter.com/D76nFJ4z2k
— RAINN (@RAINN) April 8, 2020
The group fears that cases of child sexual abuse will trend upwards as people indefinitely stay at home during the fight to curb the pandemic.
Over 93 percent of sexually abused children face sexual violence at the hands of someone close to them. While the perpetrators are often older relatives or adults, other children such as siblings or cousins can also be the abuser, according to American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) Executive Director Dr. Janet Rosenzweig. Over one-third of child sexual abuse cases involve a minor committing the abuse.
“By now, people have all heard about the pedophiles that groom children and that’s a very true way to describe adult offenders. But with kids, it’s usually predicated by sexual arousal meeting poor impulse control, and an opportunity.”
However, with many parents preoccupied with their Zoom meetings and other online home office tasks, potentially abusive minors can often be put in charge of taking care of their younger peers.
On Tuesday, independent human rights monitors from the United Nations issued an urgent appeal for governments across the world to safeguard the welfare of children who are vulnerable to violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, and exploitation amid the CoViD-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said:
“Globally, confinement measures and the disrupted provision of already limited child protection services exacerbate the vulnerability of children living in psychiatric and social care institutions, orphanages, refugee camps, immigration detention centers and other closed facilities.”
Additionally, the rights experts warned against online pedophilia, live-streamed sexual abuse, and the distribution of video depictions of child rape—a problem requiring the collaboration of law enforcement and private companies.
The UN experts added:
“We should all make significant efforts to support frontline operators in the child protection services, neighborhood and community watchdogs and law enforcement.”
But with state budgets and agencies stretched to paper-thin capacity by the pandemic, child protection services have largely been disrupted and there is very little consistency on a state-to-state level, APSAC officials said.
For now, advocates are hoping to include provisions that specifically address child protection needs in the next Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—which won’t be presented to Congress for some time, if ever.
Kiersten Stewart, the director of public policy and advocacy for Futures Without Violence, told Huffington Post:
“Additional resources to help vulnerable children and families is our number one ask for the next CARES bill. “
In the meantime, APSAC head Rosenzweig stressed the need for healthy adults to play a positive role in the lives of children they are close to. She said:
“If there is a child or parent you love, call those kids and spend a half an hour on the phone or FaceTime. Give the kids another grown-up to talk to.
If all of us do that, we’re going to give parents a break and we may find a kid out there that needs our help.”
However, the positive intervention of civil society and social services remain important in addressing the problem. Stressing the important of a new CARES bill that supports the prevention of sexual violence, Stewart said:
“There was a mistaken view that if we just handle job loss and health care that it would solve all of the potential child abuse problems and that’s just not true.
More still needs to be done and it needs to be done intentionally to support families and children.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.