Safe Shelter concerned about drop in reports of child abuse

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Friday is the last day of Child Abuse Awareness Month, and Safe Shelter has seen a decrease in reports since the pandemic started.

In 2019, Safe Shelter provided services to 547 children. A year later, Georgia went into lockdown and that number plummeted to 352.

“Our numbers are not what they normally are — they’re lower,” said Safe Shelter Executive Director Cheryl Branch. “In fact, we are a 48-bed shelter, and right now, we are in the high 20s.”

Branch says, in reality, there’s probably been a spike of violence in households around Chatham County.

She says stimulus money can trick victims into a false sense of security and sometimes keep them from reporting abuse.

“I honestly think that when the money is spent, the relationship is going to get back on track, in a bad way,” said Branch. “I think our numbers will go back up.”

For children, early intervention is critical — especially when it comes to breaking the cycle of abuse.

“I’ve been here long enough now that I am seeing people come in that were teenagers with their mothers, and now they are in here with their children,” said Branch.

Shelter-at-home orders, virtual schooling and widespread unemployment could be some of the reasons for a drop in reported cases of child abuse.

Branch said if there are any victims reading this, there’s always a way out.

“We can keep them safe, and while they’re here, try to help them work through what’s going on,” said Branch, “so that when they leave here, they at least have an idea that there is life out there for me without violence.”

If you or someone you know is in need of help, you can call Safe Shelter’s 24-hour hotline at 912-629-8888.

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