Child Abuse is defined as a child less than 18 years of age whose parent, guardian or person legally responsible inflicts or allows to be inflicted injury that causes or creates a substantial risk of death or serious protracted disfigurement, or protracted impairment of physical or emotional health or protracted loss of impairment of a bodily organ.

  • Creates or allows to be created substantial risk of physical injury likely to result in death or serious protracted disfigurement.
  • Any sexual act that is inflicted or allows to be inflicted.

Maltreatment (Neglect) is defined as a child less than 18 years of age whose parent, guardian or person legally responsible-physical, mental or emotional condition is in imminent danger of impairment due to lack of adequate food, clothing, shelter or education.

  • Inadequate guardianship, excessive corporal punishment, misuse of drug and alcohol abuse that posses risk to the child.
  • Abandonment as defined by law.

Touching and Non-Touching Behaviors

 Both touching and non-touching behaviors can be forms of child abuse.

Touching behaviors include:

  • Touching a child's genitals (penis, testicles, vulva, breasts, or anus) for sexual pleasure or other unnecessary reason.
  • Making a child touch someone else's genitals, or playing sexual (“pants-down”) games.
  • Putting objects or body parts (like fingers, tongue or a penis) inside the vulva or vagina, in the mouth, or in the anus of a child for sexual pleasure or other unnecessary reason.

Non-touching behaviors include:

  • Showing pornography to a child.
  • Exposing a person’s genitals to a child.
  • Photographing a child in sexual poses.
  • Encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts either in person or on a video.
  • Watching a child undress or use the bathroom, often without the child's knowledge (known as voyeurism or being a “Peeping Tom”).

What to do and say

What matters most to children who speak out about being abused, what helps them recover, is being believed and supported.

What to do

  • Remain calm. A child may retract information or stop talking if he/she senses a strong reaction.
  • Believe the child. Children rarely make up stories about abuse.
  • Listen without passing judgment. Most children know, love and trust their abusers and often have confused feelings.
  • Report the abuse to the Child Abuse Hotline or law enforcement right away. Promises by the offender that it won’t happen again rarely keep a child safe.
  • Ask to have the child helped at Bivona Child Advocacy Center. We can coordinate all of the services to make the process easier and less traumatic.

What to say

  • I believe you.
  • I know it's not your fault.
  • I'm glad I know about it.
  • I'm glad you told me.
  • I'm sorry this happened to you.
  • I will take care of you—you don't need to take care of me.
  • I'm not sure what will happen next.
  • Nothing about you made this happen.
  • I am upset, but not with you.
  • I'm angry at the person who did this.
  • I'm sad. You may see me cry. That's all right. I'm not mad at you.
  • We need to get help, so this doesn't happen again.
  • I know this isn't easy for you to talk about, but there are some people who need to know what happened so they can help keep you and other children be safe.

What not to do

  • Never blame the child for what happened. It is NEVER a child's fault.
  • Don’t make the child feel like it’s a burden for you to arrange various appointments such as the interview, medical exam, and therapy sessions. 
  • Never use threats or intimidation to help make sure that the child is telling the truth.
  • In an effort to return the child to normal life, don't pretend that nothing has happened to the child. 
  • Don’t let the offender be near or communicate with the child.
  • Don’t communicate with the offender in front of the child.  
  • Don't send the child to a relative so that you can see the offender in the house.
  • Don't leave the child with a relative or friend who either doesn't know or doesn't believe the report of abuse, especially in a place where the offender might stop by and visit or call.
  • Don’t let the offender break any supervision or protection rules without notifying the investigating officer and caseworker as soon as possible. If you fail to do this, the court may see you as an unprotecting parent, and you may run the risk of losing custody of your child. This is especially true if you allow contact between the offender and child.
  • Don’t question the child about the abuse. Repeated questioning by untrained professionals will only serve to confuse the child and compromise the investigation. 
  • Don’t use your computer or cell phone if you are aware of any child pornography, or sexual solicitation, or your child (who is under 18) receives any sexually explicit images. You should turn your computer and/or cell phone off and leave it off to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use.
  • Unless your law enforcement agency asks you to do so, DON'T attempt to copy or print any of the images or text found on the computer.
  • Don't discuss the case, the offender's bond, or jail arrangement within hearing distance of the child.
  • Never coach or advise the child on how to act or what to say to the professionals on the investigation team.