Community Resources

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse can include physical, sexual, or emotional injury to a child. The following are common definitions of maltreatment, as defined by Massachusetts General Law (M.G.L.) and Massachusetts Department of Social Services Regulations (110 CMR).

Definition of Abuse (defined by DCF Regulation 110 CMR 2.00)

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 caretaker and a child under the care of that individual. This definition is not dependant upon location (i.e., abuse can occur while the child is in an out-of-home or in-home setting). Abuse is any action that creates an injury or substantial risk to a child. Abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Physical abuse includes beating, shaking, kicking, burning, or other types of bodily harm that can result in bruises, fractured or broken bones, internal injuries or death.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when an adult has any sexual contact with a child. This can happen through intercourse, which is considered rape under Massachusetts General Law. It includes any oral, genital, or anal penetration. Sexual exploitation and molestation are also considered abuse. These are defined as contact or interaction with a child that is used to satisfy an adult's sexual needs and desires. This includes any verbal exciting language, as well as fondling, masturbating, or exposure of sexual organs by the adult. Sex between adults and children is never considered consensual.

Physical Injury (defined by DCF regulation 110 CMR 2.00)

  • Death;
  • Fracture of a bone, a subdural hematoma, burns, impairment of any organ, and any other such nontrivial injury;
  • Soft tissue swelling or skin bruising depending on such factors as the child's age, circumstances under which the injury occurred, and the number and location of bruises;
  • Addiction to drug at birth; and
  • Failure to thrive.

Any physical injury that is not clearly explained may be a possible indicator of physical abuse.


Failure by a caretaker, whether deliberately, or through negligence, or inability to take those actions necessary to provide a child with minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, emotional stability and growth, or other essential care; provided, however, that such inability is not due solely to inadequate economic resources or solely to the existence of a handicapping condition.

A child can be neglected when caretakers do not provide for basic needs, either deliberately or through negligence, such as food, shelter, medical care, supervision, or emotional stability. An infant born addicted to drugs is considered neglected as well. It should be noted that environmental circumstances that some parents face, such as homelessness or inadequate financial resources, do not constitute neglect.

Mandated Reporters, as defined by M.G.L. c. 119, s. 51A, are required to call DCF if they have reasonable cause to believe abuse or neglect has occurred.

Additionally, a written report has to be submitted to DCF within 48 hours.

You do not have to be a mandated reporter to report child abuse or neglect. Any person who believes a child is being abused or neglected can and should call to report the allegations.

(Adapted from Massachusetts Department of Children and Families; Definitions and Explanations of Terms Associated with Child Abuse and Neglect.)

Safety Tips for Children

Knowing My Rules for Safety:

  1. I CHECK FIRST with my parents, guardians, or other trusted adults before going anywhere, doing anything, helping anyone, accepting anything, getting into a vehicle, or leaving with anyone.
  2. I TAKE A FRIEND with me when going places or playing outside.
  3. I TELL someone NO if they try to touch me or do things in ways that make me feel sad, scared, or confused, because it's OK for me to stand up for myself.
  4. I TELL my parents, guardians, or other trusted adults if anything happens to me.

Sometimes there are people who trick or hurt others. No one has the right to do that to you. So use these rules, and remember you are STRONG, are SMART, and have the right to be SAFE. Always


Copyright © 1991, 1999, and 2005 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. All rights reserved.

Conozco mis Reglas de Seguridad:

  1. CONSULTO PRIMERO con mis padres, guardianes u otros adultos de confianza antes de ir a cualquier lado, hacer cualquier cosa, ayudar a alguien, aceptar algo, subir a un auto o de irme con alguien.
  2. Siempre VOY CON UN AMIGO cuando voy a algún lado o juego afuera.
  3. DIGO QUE NO si alguien trata de tocarme o hace cosas que me hacen sentir asustado, incómodo o confuso, porque ESTÁ BIEN que diga lo que siento.
  4. Si me ocurre algo, SE LO DIGO a mis padres, guardianes u otros adultos de confianza.

A veces hay personas que tratan de enganar o de hacerle dano a otros. No hay ninguna razon que lo justifique... Nadie tiene el derecho de forzar, enganar o presionar a otras personas a hacer cosas que no desean. De manera que usa estas reglas y recuerda que eres FUERTE, INTELIGENTE y que tienes el derecho de ESTAR A SALVO. Siempre


Copyright © 1991, 1999 y 2005 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®. Todos los derechos reservados.

Safety Tips for Teens

My Rights as a Teenager:

  1. Be respectful of who I am
  2. Feel safe
  3. Control what happens to my body
  4. Set limits and have privacy
  5. Make mistakes
  6. Voice opinions and feelings
  7. Not be harassed
  8. Ask for a date
  9. Refuse a date

How Can I Be a Friend to Someone Who Has Been Victimized by Abuse?

  1. Give Help: If you have a friend in need of help, take time to learn about resources in your community. Find out what legal, medical, or counseling options are available.
  2. Make a Safety Plan: If you have a friend who has suffered or is suffering from abuse, help her/him make a plan so that s/he has a safe place to go.
  3. Protect Your Friend: Even if your friend doesn't want anyone else to know, telling an adult who can help stop the abuse is a priority.
  4. Believe the Story: Listen to your friend and believe her/him. Acknowledge her/his feelings and let her/him know that s/he is not alone. Tell your friend that regardless of her/his behavior, the abuse was NOT deserved.

"My Rights as a Teenager" and "How can I be a friend..."reprinted with permission from the National Council of Missing and Exploited Children. Copyright © 1991, 1999 NCMEC. All rights reserved.

Internet-Related Safety Tips for Teens

  1. Don't give out personal information about yourself, your family situation, your school, your telephone number, or your address.
  2. If you become aware of the sharing, use, or viewing of child pornography online, immediately report this to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
  3. When in chatrooms remember that not everyone may be who they say they are. For example a person who says "she" is a 14-year-old girl from New York may really be a 42-year-old man from California.
  4. If someone harasses you online, says anything inappropriate, or does anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, contact your Internet service provider.
  5. Know that there are rules many Internet Service Providers (ISP) have about online behavior. If you disobey an ISP's rules, your ISP may penalize you by disabling your account, and sometimes every account in a household, either temporarily or permanently.
  6. Consider volunteering at your local library, school, or Boys & Girls Club to help younger children online. Many schools and nonprofit organizations are in need of people to help set up their computers and Internet capabilities.
  7. A friend you meet online may not be the best person to talk to if you are having problems at home, with your friends, or at school - remember the teenage "girl" from New York in Tip number three?
  8. If you are thinking about running away, a friend from online (remember the 14-year-old girl) may not be the best person to talk to. If there is no adult in your community you can find to talk to, call the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-621-4000. Although some of your online friends may seem to really listen to you, the Switchboard will be able to give you honest, useful answers to some of your questions about what to do when you are depressed, abused, or thinking about running away.

1 Adapted from Teen Safety on the Information Highway by Lawrence J. Magid. Copyright© respectively 1994 and 1998 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). All rights reserved.

2 Adapted from Children Online: The ABCs for Parenting: When Is Your Child Ready by The Children's Partnership. Reprinted with permission of The Children's Partnership.

Information for Parents & Caregivers


Participate in your child's activities and get to know your child's friends.

  1. Teach children the differences between "good touches," "bad touches" and "confusing touches."
  2. Be aware of changes in a child's behavior or attitude, and inquire.
  3. Listen when a child tells you he or she does not want to be with someone; find out why.
  4. Be alert for any talk that reveals premature sexual understanding or knowledge.
  5. Teach children what to do if they become separated from their parents while away from home.
  6. Pay attention when someone shows greater than normal interest in your child.
  7. Make certain your child's school or day care center will release him/her to only you or someone you officially designate.
  8. Teach your child the correct names of all their body parts.
  9. Never discipline children when your anger is out of control.


  1. Remain calm. A child may take back information or stop talking if he/she senses a strong reaction.
  2. Listen without passing judgment. Most children know their abusers and often have confused feelings.
  3. Tell the child you are glad that he/she told someone.
  4. Assure the child that abuse is not his/her fault.
  5. Do what you can to make certain that the child is safe from further abuse.
  6. Do not investigate yourself. Call police or local child protective services.