DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — As the coronavirus forces already vulnerable families into isolation, experts fear that abuse is flourishing.
"We're not naive to the fact that abuse is still ongoing and there may be more severe cases due to the ongoing stress," said Elena Doskey, the director of clinical training at the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center. "Now, with kids not being in school, where we know that teachers and school personnel are some of our leading reporters of child abuse, 'eyes on' is a little bit harder."
Nevertheless, she said the hard work of protecting and healing the most vulnerable continues. And the community is being asked to stay vigilant and connected — even virtually.
"For those teachers who are continuing to access students via video conferencing, ask how kids are doing," Dr. Doskey advised. "And if you're a family member who's doing video chats with extended family, try to increase communication."
Even while "physical distancing," she said their team is still responding to abuse reports and even moving therapy sessions online.
"Sometimes there's this idea that time will heal all, and with enough time these concerns will just go away. We just know that that's not the case," Dr. Doskey said. "Now that children don't have their routine, don't have an escape from those intrusive thoughts, or those heavy feelings that bubble up... now more than ever, it's important for us to stay connected to those families. Time really isn't on our side in that regard."
As a licensed psychologist, Dr. Doskey admits that TeleHealth isn't ideal, but doing nothing isn't an option.
"I work with amazing, amazing therapists who say, 'You know what? I am going to rise to the occasion and figure it out.'"
She said she receives almost daily emails sharing progress and success stories.
"Parents have blown up balloons at home and therapists have put on little party hats to celebrate the victories there," Dr. Doskey shared. She was also quick to point out that community support and the generosity of a number of foundations make those victories possible.
An inaugural grant from the Trey Carlock Memorial Fund allowed the agency to secure the technology necessary to provide the virtual counseling through a TeleHealth platform.
"Kids are so resilient," Dr. Doskey said. "And together we are still continuing to serve them and have some of those successes."
On Thursday, Apr. 23, North Texans are encouraged to wear blue in order to create and spread awareness.
CHILD ABUSE BY THE NUMBERS
- There were over 28,000 children abused in Dallas County alone last year
- Each year, DCAC serves over 7,300 children and their non-offending family members who were sexually abused, severely physically abused, or who had witnessed a violent crime.
- DCAC's average client is a 9-year-old girl, sexually abused by someone she knows and trusts.
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