What is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse can be any sexual act performed with a child, to a child or in the presence of a child for the sexual gratification of another. Child sexual abuse can range from unwanted kissing to sexual intercourse. Sexual abuse can include touching and physical contact as well as solicitation, pornography and on-line enticement. Most sexual abuse is committed by people the child knows as well as strangers. People who sexually abuse children can be friends, relatives, caregivers, trusted adults and strangers. Child sexual abuse may be defined differently by different groups of people such as counselors, police, and child protection agencies. What should be kept in mind is that sexual abuse affects children and parents in a variety of different ways. Each person’s experience is unique.
What is Physical Abuse?
Physical abuse is an injury to a child that is not accidental. Most parents do not intend to hurt their children, but abuse is defined by the effect on the child, not the motivation of the parents.
Sign of Physical abuse may include:
· Head Injuries
· Fractures, Sprains
· Burns or Scalds
· Internal Injuries
· Electrical Shocks
Although not recommended, spanking is not abuse. However, a spanking which leaves marks or bruises on a child might be abuse. Bruises anywhere on a baby are serious.
Warning Signs: Sometimes parents may have suspicions about abuse. If you suspect your child has been abused, it is best to follow your instincts. The best indicator of sexual abuse is when a child tells you he/she has been abused. Children seldom lie about sexual abuse, although sometimes they do. While there are some strong physical indicators of sexual abuse, such as sexually transmitted diseases in young children and pregnancies in young adolescents, there are often few or no physical signs of sexual abuse.
Physical Indicators of sexual abuse include but are not limited to bladder and urinary infections, scratching and painful genitals (especially during urination), uncontrollable bowel movements as well as torn, stained or bloody underclothing.
Behavioral Indicators related to sexual abuse include sudden changes in personality (depression, anxiety and withdrawal), suicidal thoughts, prostitution, advanced knowledge and/or interest in sexual acts that are beyond the child’s developmental level and extreme guilt. Some children may also display no changes in behavior. The sexual abuse might only be discovered when the child makes a disclosure and/or through medical treatment. Not all children react to sexual abuse the same. The following could be signals of sexual abuse:
· Noticeable fear of a person or certain places
· Unusual or unexpected response from the child when asked if he/she was touched by someone
· Unreasonable fear of a physical exam
· Drawings that show sexual acts
· Abrupt changes in behavior, such as bed wetting or losing control of his/her bowels
· Sudden awareness of genitals and sexual acts and words
· Attempting to get other children to perform sexual acts
How Can I Help Prevent Child Abuse?
· Know the Signs. Educate yourself about the signs of abuse to look for, what is abuse, and situations that could put a child at increased risk.
· Communicate with the child. Oftentimes, children are afraid to tell if they have been the victim of abuse, or threatened that they will upset those they love if they tell. Keeping open lines of communication will reduce your child’s vulnerability, and increase the likelihood that the child will tell you if they are abused.
· Stay alert. Always know the people who care for your children. Write down the babysitters names, phone numbers and addresses.
· Ask questions. Always know and use the “W” questions with your child: Who, What, Where and When. This applies to physical activities such as going to the park and on-line activities such as visiting chat rooms.
· Be involved in your child’s activities.
· Be sensitive to changes in your child’s behavior or attitude. Look and listen to small clues and clues that something might be wrong.
· Trust yourself. Listen to your intuition or your “gut feeling.”
· Teach your child to listen to his or her intuition or “gut feeling” and communicate it to you.
· When your child tells you they do not like someone, ask them to tell you why.
· Teach your child that it’s okay to tell, no matter whom, no matter what!
· Maintain supportive, open communication with your child; talk and listen.
· Talk about safety and sex with your child.
· Remember that children should not be held responsible for protecting themselves from sexual abuse by adults.
· Carefully supervise and establish clear rules and guidelines for your child’s computer use.
· Educate yourself (read, listen and ask).
How to Report Child Abuse (www.nyc.gov)
Reports of child abuse and neglect can be made 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling the New York State Child Abuse Hotline. All calls are confidential. The hotline relays calls to the appropriate Child Protective Services agency to begin an investigation when appropriate. When making a report, you will be asked for the following information:
· the name and address of the child and family members
· the child's age, sex, and primary language
· the nature and extent of the child's injuries
· the type of abuse or neglect, including evidence of prior history of maltreatment of the child or siblings
· any additional information that may be helpful.
General Public: (800) 342-3720
If a child is in immediate danger, dial 911.
Mandated Reporters: (800) 635-1522
If you are a Mandated Reporter, you are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.
All allegations of abuse and/or neglect must be called into the New York State Child Abuse Hotline. Allegations cannot be accepted by e-mail. Please note that false reporting is a crime.
Certain professionals are required by law to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment to the New York State Central Register (SCR) of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, also known as the Child Abuse Hotline. The law also assigns civil and criminal liability to those professionals who do not comply with their mandated reporter abilities.
Mandated reporters are required to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment – or cause a report to be made – when, in their professional roles, they are presented with reasonable cause to suspect abuse or maltreatment.
**Of course, anyone can report any suspected abuse or maltreatment at any time,
and is encouraged to do so.
Reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment means that, based on your observations, professional training and experience, you feel the parent or person legally responsible for a child has harmed that child or placed that child in imminent danger or harm. These professionals include:
· Dental hygienist
· Medical examiner
· Registered Nurse
· Mental Health Professional
· Substance Abuse Counselor
· Alcoholism Counselor
· Family Day Care
· Peace Officer
· Any other law enforcement official
· District Attorney or Assistant District Attorney
· Police Officer
· Emergency Medical Technician
· Registered Physicians Assistant
· School official
· Social services worker
· Christian Science practitioner
· Hospital personnel engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of persons
· Any employee or volunteer in a residential care facility for children
· Any child care worker
· Any foster care worker
Mandated Reporter Hotline: (800) 635-1522
Public Hotline: (800) 342-3720
Oral reports must be followed within 48 hours by a written report to the local Child Protective Services office (for more information on this process, click here). A copy of the current Mandated Reporter Form (LDSS Form 2221A) can be downloaded here (PDF Format).
The Importance of Mandated Reporters in the Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect
Mandated reporters play a crucial role in keeping children safe and helping families access important resources. Mandated reporters often come into frequent contact with children at risk, and families in crisis, and have an early opportunity to help them get the intervention, support or services they need to stay safe.
**Mandated reporters more consistently report abuse and neglect than those in the general population, and their allegations are confirmed at a rate twice that of non-mandated reporters.
Your Report Will Remain Confidential
The Social Services Law provides confidentiality for mandated reporters and all sources of child abuse and maltreatment reports. ACS is not permitted to release to the subject of the report any data that would identify the source of a report unless the subject has given written permission to do so. Information regarding the report may be shared with court officials, police and district attorneys, but only in certain circumstances.
Penalties for Failure to Report
Anyone who is mandated to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment – and fails to do so – could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and subject to criminal penalties. Further, mandated reporters can be sued in civil court for monetary damages for any harm caused by the mandated reporter’s failure to make a report to the SCR.
Immunity from Liability
If a mandated reporter makes a report with earnest concern for the welfare of a child, he or she is immune from any criminal or civil liability that might result. However, this good faith immunity is not available where the liability results from willful misconduct or gross negligence by the reporter. Malicious and false reporting to the SCR is against the law.