CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago police received a horrific call Thursday afternoon of a 7-year-old girl observed performing a sexual act on a man live on an online learning session.

“I was absolutely appalled when I heard this story,” said Stephanie Love-Patterson, executive director of Connections for Abused Women and Their Children.

Unfortunately, it’s exactly the type of abuse that the she feared when she first learned about remote learning plans last spring.

“So many individuals don’t have the resources,” she said. “The risk of individuals of children being without someone that can be a voice for them like a teacher or a teacher’s aid or a principal.” 

CBS 2 confirmed Friday that the 7-year-old victim was not a CPS student, but Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson echoed the CAWC’s concerns.

“There are fewer watchful eyes looking at students, connecting with student to make sure that they’re safe,” said Jackson.

Jackson pointed to a solution: an eventual return to in-person instruction.

“It just makes me even more committed to seeing our kids back in school under the watchful eye of their teachers who care for them deeply,” said Jackson. 

CAWC experienced a drop in hotline calls for help early in the pandemic — a bad sign, they say, that abuse was going unreported.

Love-Patterson said those numbers began to trend back up after the state moved into Phase 4, but she worries what will happen if a resurgence of cases leads to a second shutdown.

“That will mean then that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault will be forced to shelter in place with the very person that wants to harm them,” she said.

As of Friday afternoon CPD said a man had been questioned by detectives, but charges were still pending. The young girl was taken to Comer Children’s Hospital.

CPD said their domestic violence call volumes are currently about 9% to 11% percent higher than the same period last year.

Love-Patterson said that until a return to in-person learning teachers and principals need to go out of their way to observe students during remote learning sessions for changes in demeanor or changes in personality and to make sure that parents understand what to look for and what kinds of organizations, like CAWC, are there to help.

Megan Hickey