Term of Award

Spring 2024

Degree Name

Master of Science, Criminal Justice and Criminology

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology

Committee Chair

Akiv Dawson

Committee Member 1

Amanda Graham

Committee Member 2

Chad Posick

Committee Member 3

Jessica Schwind

Committee Member 3 Email



The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 created a public health crisis that led to an unprecedented number of school closures. A major concern raised by child advocates, law enforcement, and social service providers was the possible increase in undetected child abuse and maltreatment. Undergirding this concern was the belief that this mitigation effort might place child abuse victims and offenders within proximity for extended periods of time. While this was a significant concern, it has rarely been analyzed empirically. To address this gap in the literature, this thesis investigates how school closures impacted the characteristics of child sexual abuse (CSA) reports in Georgia. Guided by the tenets of Routine Activity Theory (RAT), this study draws on data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) Child File 2019-2021 and uses cross-tabulation and ANOVA models to address three research questions about school closures and CSA reporting. Each question relates to an element of RAT. Results from this study support the tenets of RAT and indicate that COVID-19 school closures impacted the characteristics of CSA reports. Specifically, I observed that school closures were associated with changes in the characteristics of CSA victims, perpetrators, and reporters. The insights gained about the applicability of RAT in studying CSA reporting and the implications for future research, policy, and practice are discussed.

Research Data and Supplementary Material