Child abuse is one of our nation's most serious public health problems. It occurs at every socio-economic level, within all ethnic groups, cultures and religions, and at all levels of education. Each day in the United States, four children die as a result of child abuse, and three out of four of these victims are under the age of four. Scientific studies show a link between child abuse and neglect of children and a wide range of medical, emotional, and behavioral disorders such as depression, alcohol abuse, drug addiction and juvenile delinquency. District Attorney Capeless believes that we must raise community awareness of the signs and symptoms of child abuse, and provide parents, children and families with the tools and support they need to report potential abuse, and break the cycle of violence.
Child abuse is the non-accidental commission of any act by a caretaker upon a child under age 18 which causes, or creates a substantial risk of, physical or emotional injury; or constitutes a sexual offense under the laws of the Commonwealth; or any sexual contact between a parent/guardian/caretaker and a child under 18.
Child abuse can occur both inside and outside the home setting.
- can be committed by a parent or any other person who has contact with the child
- includes witnessing domestic violence
- includes being born addicted to narcotics
- can be physical, sexual and/or emotional
Child neglect is the failure, by a parent, guardian or caretaker, either deliberately or through negligence or inability, to take actions necessary to provide a child with minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, emotional stability and growth, or other essential care.
Physical abuse takes many forms, and the consequences are far-ranging. Physical abuse may create cuts, bruising or swelling, fracture of a bone, internal injuries of the body, organs, or head (subdural hematoma), burns, or the death of the child.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
Shaken Baby Syndrome, the act of shaking a baby, is considered serious physical abuse, as spinal, head and neck injuries often result from violently shaking young children. The consequences of shaking a baby can include severe head injury, life-long disability and death.
Sexual Abuse includes the sexual exploitation or victimization of a child by an adult, adolescent, or older child. Sexual abuse includes vaginal, anal, or oral penetration (rape), fondling (indecent assault and battery), exhibitionism, prostitution, and exposure to, or photographing a child for, pornography.
Emotional Abuse is defined as words or behavior on the part of a parent/guardian/caretaker which create an impairment to the emotional well-being, or intellectual or psychological capacity of a child. Emotional abuse can result in low self-esteem in a child, and create a reduction in the child's ability to function within a normal range of performance and behavior.
Anyone who is concerned that a child is being abused or is at risk of abuse can file a report with the Department of Children and Families. If you believe a child may be the victim of abuse or neglect, contact the Child-at-Risk Hotline at 800-792-5200 or call the Berkshire County office of the Department of Children and Families at 413-236-1800.