ChildSafe: COVID-19 Pandemic is ‘perfect storm’ for child abuse perpetrators

Training offered to spot virtual signs of abuse

Bexar Facts- child abuse in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – The latest Bexar Facts-KSAT-Rivard Report poll reinforces what many already know -- 81% of likely Bexar County voters consider child abuse and extremely serious or very serious problem in the greater San Antonio area.

Especially now, said Randy McGibeny, chief operating officer of ChildSafe, a longtime child advocacy group.

"What this pandemic has done is it's created this environment for secrecy to really continue," McGibeny said. "It's a perfect storm, unfortunately, for the perpetrators of these types of crimes."

Child abuse is a serious issue facing the city, respondents said. (KSAT)

Now that children are no longer in school or the public eye, perpetrators can hide abuse, McGibeny said.

"What perpetrators are trying to do is they're trying to isolate children," he said.

Anticipating what could happen, ChildSafe is offering training via Zoom (see schedule below) so that other child advocacy groups and school districts can learn how to recognize virtual signs of abuse and then report it, McGibeny said.

“Our biggest fear is that we’re going to have a child death as a result of this pandemic because people aren’t laying eyes on them,” he said.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reports fiscal years 2019 and 2018 each saw nine child abuse fatalities in Bexar County.

Northside ISD, the city's largest school district, has advised its teachers on what they need to look for whenever they speak to their students online.

"Really paying close attention to the nonverbals that you can see on the computer screen," said Dr. Kimberly Ridgley, executive director of whole child development at NISD.

She said, for instance, "Do they appear fearful when someone comes in a room?"

Ridgley said Northside ISD has encountered “quite a few cases” of suspected abuse.

Click here to learn how you can report child abuse.

The poll included responses from 668 registered Bexar County voters of different income and education levels, race, age, gender and political party affiliation. Four out of five respondents answered in English, while one out of five answered in Spanish. The poll’s margin of error is 4%.

Didn’t get called for the poll, but still want to have your voice heard? Take the poll, via Bexar Facts, here.

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.