To Report Abuse contact the Division for Children, Youth & Families or your local police. DCYF: To report child abuse or neglect, (800) 894-5533 or (603) 271-6562.
What do I do if I suspect child abuse or neglect?
NH Law requires any person who suspects that a child under age 18 has been abused or neglected must report that suspicion immediately to DCYF. (New Hampshire RSA 169-C:29-31)
- If a child tells you that he or she has been hurt or you are concerned that a child may be the victim of any type of abuse or neglect, you must call the Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) Central Intake Unit at: Telephone: (800) 894-5533 – 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM Monday – Friday
- Call your local police department with urgent child abuse or neglect reports during DCYF non-work hours (between 4:30 PM and 8:00 AM or on weekends and holidays).
Proof of abuse and neglect is not required to make a report. Reports are required when the reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect exists.
Sex Abuse Laws
In New Hampshire we have several different laws addressing the issue of sexual abuse.
- In New Hampshire the age of sexual consent is 16 years old.
- Statutory rape is when a person of any age engages in sexual conduct with a person under the age of 16. It is a crime, even if both parties want it to happen.
- Acquaintance assault is sexual abuse perpetrated by someone the victim knows.
- More than 90% of sexual assaults fall into this category.
- This includes when the perpetrator is a family member.
- Stranger assaults are when a person is forced to participate in sexual acts with a person they do not know.
Know the Signs
hildren are often too scared or ashamed to disclose abuse. It is estimated only 10% (1 in 10 children) of child victims ever come forward on their own. Children depend on caring adults. It is important to know about possible changes in behavior and/or other indicative signs. If you have reason to suspect a child has been abused or neglected, New Hampshire law requires you to report what you know to the Division for Children Youth & Families immediately or local law enforcement.
Children who are abused may not be able to express their feelings safely and as a result, may develop difficulties regulating their emotions.
Mental/Emotional Effects of Abuse
The following are SOME of the possible effects, or indications, of child abuse and neglect on a child’s mental health and well being.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Academic problems in school-aged children and adolescents
- Withdrawn and/or difficulty connecting with others
- Increased hyper-vigilance
- Difficulty sleeping
- Eating disorders
- Drug use
- Risky sexual decision-making
- Discomfort with physical touch
Physical Signs of Abuse
Being able to recognize the physical signs of abuse can be crucial in identifying an abusive situation and taking steps to protect a child from further abuse or neglect. These are some common injuries/signs observed in children who have been physically or sexually abused and/or neglected:
- Bruises, welts or swelling
- Sprains or fractures
- Lacerations or abrasions
- Difficulty in walking or sitting
- Torn, stained or bloody clothing
- Pain or itching in the genital area; bruises or bleeding in the external genital area
- Sexually transmitted infections or diseases
- Lack of adequate supervision, nutrition or shelter
- Poor hygiene
Teenagers may be reluctant to tell someone because of fear of getting in trouble, and/or fear of the abuser.
- All people should feel safe, respected and in control of their own bodies. Though it can be difficult to talk about getting it out in the open can bring a sense of relief. Most important, it can bring an end to the abuse.
- If you are a victim of abuse, it’s important to know that keeping it a secret doesn’t mean you’re weak, that you wanted it to happen or could have stopped it.
- Finding someone to tell may be difficult, especially if the abuser is a family member or trusted friend. What you need to know is there are other people in your life that can help. Identify a trusted adult and tell them what is happening.
- You can also call the Division for Children, Youth and Families @ 1-800-894-5533, or contact your local police department. the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a great resource and has 24 hour hotline coverage.
- Sexual abuse is a crime and if you’re victim it is not your fault. Help is available, let someone know what has happened to you and tell the authorities.
Counseling & Support
There’s no “normal” reaction to abuse. In fact, the effects of abuse can vary greatly from person to person. The important thing to know is that professional support lessens the long term negative effects of abuse by helping victims develop coping skills. Sweeping abuse under the carpet doesn’t work.
Counseling and support groups are available throughout New Hampshire for teens who’ve been abused. One-on-one counseling provides a safe, private place to share feelings. Support groups bring teens with similar experiences together. If you’re a teen in need of help, talk with a trusted adult to find the right support system for you. If you’re unsure of what to do contact your local CAC.
Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness. It is a positive step toward healing.
Professional support can provide understanding that the abuse doesn’t have to define them.
Internet Safety Tips
The Internet is a tremendous resource and a fun place to explore. It can also be dangerous. Cyber-bullies and sexual predators can hide behind their user names, searching for people to harm. Be smart! Be Cautious! Think about your safety before you make a choice online.
Internet sites that attract Teens will also attract cyber-bullies and predators.
Follow these basic guidelines to keep safe on the Internet:
- Be your own person. Don’t let friends or strangers pressure you to be someone you’re not. And remember, people aren’t always who they say they are online.
- Think about what you post. Sharing provocative photos or intimate details online, even in private emails, can cause problems and have unintended consequences.
- Passwords are private. Never share your password, even with friends. You never want to be impersonated by anyone online.
- Don’t post provocative photos, suggestive messages or anything else you’d be embarrassed to have a parent, teacher, coach or other trusted adult see.
- Don’t talk about sex with strangers. If the conversation starts to be about sexual or physical details and you are uncomfortable or feel unsafe, disengage from the communication.
- Never agree to meetings with strangers. The only way someone can physically harm you is if you’re both in the same location, so – to be 100% safe – don’t meet them in person.
- Find more information at NetSmartz.org.
“Sexting” is the sending of sexually explicit messages or images via cellphones or other media sharing technologies, such as email or instant messaging.
- Sexting can hurt: A “private” message may end up being shared with others. Whether intentional or by accident, the end result may be teasing, harassment and humiliation. Even sharing thoughts or photos with someone you love and trust may end up being shared.
- Sexting can be illegal: Sexting may seem like harmless and fun, but if the person in the photograph is a minor, it’s illegal. If nude photos of a minor are sent it could result in a criminal charge of producing and/or distributing child pornography. Receiving such photos or keeping nude pictures of minors on a phone, computer or other device can result in a criminal charge of possession of child pornography.