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The unintended consequences of implementing stay-at-home policies during the COVID-19 pandemic: Violence outcomes in children and youth in Canada

COVID-19 Research Area(s): Healthcare Delivery & Policy, Mental Health & Wellbeing, Social Impacts

Although stay-at-home measures during pandemics are implemented to protect the population, a serious consequence of quarantine has been heightened risk of child maltreatment, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to family violence. During the height of the pandemic, public health leaders and governments required Canadians to stay at home and to maintain social distancing if, and when, they were out. These policies, and the response to them, undoubtedly saved lives. We are unsure however, of how certain COVID-19 policies may have affected other health outcomes. A recent Children First Canada report called "Raising Canada 2020" reported that children and youth, as well as those less fortunate, may have suffered more than others as the result of COVID-19 policies. This report also states that preventable injury is the number one threat to children and youth in Canada, and called violence against children the "hidden crisis" of the pandemic. In the early days of the pandemic, Kids Help Phone calls in Vancouver increased drastically, as did as the number of reported domestic incidents, sexual assaults, and a rise in reported gun violence in Toronto. Despite this, we do not have data on the number of children and youth affected by violence during the COVID-19 restrictions. Our research project will use several sources of data to better understand how many children and youth suffered a violence-related injury during the pandemic. We will use data to report on the type of injuries that occurred and how, so that this information can inform us of what to do to prevent this from happening in the future.