TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — With Domestic Violence Awareness month coming to an end, some experts are shining a light on what this means for children in our local community.

While the number of reported child abuse cases lowered during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say it may not be a good thing.

“Children are often the forgotten victims when it comes to domestic violence.” Emily Perry, Executive Director of Susie’s Place, said. Susie’s Place is a child advocacy center.

After the stay at home order was put in place due to COVID-19, Perry said the number of reported cases dropped almost 40 percent. Now that schools are opening, she said the numbers are incrementally going back up. This is because children have safe, trusted adults they can report abuse to.

“People will perceive an increase in the number of child abuse reports to be a negative thing,” Perry said. “But, honestly we see the increase as a positive thing because we know the incidents of abuse are occurring. We know they are not being reported.”

Experts at Hamilton Center, an organization that focuses on behavior health, said it is not just speculation causing them to think the instances of abuse are still high.

“Law enforcement, however, research shows that they are seeing, they are the ones who are actually seeing the increase in those domestic violence cases.” Emily Owens, from the Hamilton Center said.

A statistic from Prevent Child Abuse America shows 30 to 60 percent of children in homes where domestic violence is occurring are also victims of abuse themselves.

Even if the child is safe from physical harm, Owens said seeing a loved one get abused can take a serious toll.

“It makes them feel unsafe, uneasy,” Owens said. “It could increase some of their anxiety about different situations. Really making them unsure and maybe even a little more heightened in their responses to adult figures.”

Owens said one of the most common signs of child abuse is isolation. However, with people being isolated due to the pandemic, certain changes in the child’s behavior could mean they are suffering from neglect or abuse.