The number of reports of child sexual abuse have dropped off significantly during the ongoing emergency situation in Estonia, and police are worried, as they say this is not indicative of a reduction in instances of the crime itself, but rather the fact that child sexual abuse most often occurs in the home, daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) writes.
Without revealing any exact numbers, Reimo Raivet, head of the Sexual Crimes Unit of the Police and Border Guard Board's (PPA) North Prefecture, said that while they do have something currently under investigation, it isn't comparable to the situation prior to the emergency situation and accompanying social distancing, EPL writes (link in Estonian).
"A child is in trouble, but they don't have anyone to tell even if they had the courage to do so," Raivet said, noting that as children are at home during the pandemic, kindergarten teachers, teachers, psychologists, school nurses, coaches and other adults outside of the family typically in their lives that have previously reported concerns to the police cannot keep an eye on them.
Social Insurance Board Children's House director Anna Frank-Viron believes that in some cases, at least, sexual abuse may be down due to the additional presence of the other parent as well as siblings, but admitted that in other cases, a child may be subject to an increased amount of abuse as they are stuck at home, adding that they may not have the opportunity to report abuse either if their phone and computer are being monitored by their abuser.
According to European Commission data, one in five children in Europe has experienced abuse; in Estonia, 32 percent of youth between the ages of 16-18 has experienced abuse, and one in ten youths has experienced sexual abuse.
Of particular concern to authorities are children with special needs, particularly as access to usual support is hampered by the pandemic and emergency situation, as well as children spending increased amounts of time online, where they are prone to become victims of abuse, including at the hands of other children and youth or online predators.
Both Frank-Viron and Raivet stressed that help is still available, however, and encouraged children, parents and neighbors or other bystanders to reach out for help in the case of suspected child abuse.
As of April 20, a total of 210 cases of physical, emotional and psychological child abuse have been reported in Estonia.
Editor: Aili Vahtla