During times of stress and isolation, instances of abuse can increase. Additionally, individuals who have undisclosed trauma may be challenged by their trauma experience with a reduction of their natural supports. As business and organizations which support children begin to reopen, the reality is children who have been victims of abuse during stay-at-home orders may begin to disclose their abuse who adults who can help. Individuals who are mandated reporters in Massachusetts are required by law to report any reasonable suspicions of abuse. We also encourage members of our community who are concerned about the safety of children they know to report any reasonable suspicions of abuse.
The DCF Child at Risk Hotline is 800.792.5200 and the local Hyannis office is 508.760.0200. If a child discloses abuse, the first step is to remain calm and thank the child for telling someone. If you feel comfortable in getting more information in order to report ask minimal, but critical questions: What happened? When did it happen? Who was it with? Where did it happen? Have you told anyone else? It's best to stay away from why questions. If the child appears to be at immediate risk, contact your local law enforcement agency.
If you are a parent or caregiver and have learned that someone you care about has been abused, the most important first step is to stay calm. The child has undergone a potentially traumatic experience and could be more frightened by your response than the abuse itself. Be sure to thank the child for being honest and courageous enough to tell someone, then call Children's Cove, the Department of Children and Families, or your local police department. To learn more about signs of child abuse, or how to have the conversation about body safety, visit our website.