Learn About Abuse

Learn About Abuse


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines child abuse and neglect as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver (e.g. clergy, coach, teacher) that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. Abuse comes in many different forms such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. It happens more often than you think. Five children die every day because of abuse and neglect.

Learn the professional terminology used in child abuse investigations.


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 poses risk to the child.
  • Abandonment as defined by law.


Have you noticed this type of behavior by the child?

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Problems at school or with peers
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Returning to bedwetting, thumb sucking, etc.
  • Fear of a certain person
  • Skipping school, running away or acting out
  • Attempting suicide
  • Writing or artwork that’s strangely sexual
  • Excessive sexual curiosity, masturbation or promiscuity
  • Seductive behavior toward adults or peers

Have you noticed these physical signs on the child?

  • Unexplained headaches, stomach aches, vomiting, fainting or blackouts
  • Bedwetting or soiling
  • Loss or gain of appetite and/or weight
  • Injury, itching, pain or soreness in genital or anal area
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothes
  • Sexually transmitted disease or vaginal discharge
  • Pregnancy

Have you seen this behavior in adults near the child?

  • Refusal to let child set limits
  • Insisting on hugs, touching, kissing, tickling, etc. even when child resists
  • Overly interested in child’s physical or sexual development
  • Insisting on uninterrupted time alone with child
  • Spending most of spare time with children rather than peers
  • Buying children expensive items or gives money for no reason
  • Frequently walking in on child in the bathroom
  • Allowing child to get away with inappropriate behavior


Prevention starts with you.  All adults share the responsibility to report suspected child abuse.

Call right away to speak to someone that can help.

  • If a child is in immediate danger, call 911
  • New York State Child Abuse Hotline 800-342-3720
  • New York State Mandated Reporter Hotline 800-635-1522
  • Trafficking and Exploitation Hotline 315-218-1966. If you suspect a child is being trafficked or exploited, please call the hotline. For more information on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Human Trafficking, please click here.


How does a child get referred to the Child Advocacy Center? A child can only get referred to the CAC by:

  1. Child Protective Services
  2. Law Enforcement
  3. Child’s pediatrician

How can I prepare my child?

  • Do:
    • Tell your child he or she will be visiting a safe, comfortable place to speak with a person whose job it is to talk with kids and teenagers.
    • Have your child be well rested.
    • Give your child permission to talk with the interviewer and let him or her know it is OK to talk about anything.
    • Bring the child's comfort item if that would be helpful.
  • Don't:
    • Ask your child questions about the situation
    • Tell your child what to say
    • Promise treats or rewards to your child for talking
    • Ask why your child didn't tell sooner

What is a forensic interview?

  • A forensic interview is a structured conversation with a child, designed to obtain accurate and complete information when there are concerns of possible events of physical or sexual abuse or when the child has been exposed to violence. The interview is conducted in a developmentally and culturally sensitive manner by a trained forensic interviewer.

Who will accompany parents as the forensic interview is conducted?

  • It is understandable that waiting during the interview may be difficult. We encourage you to bring a friend or other support person and our Victim Advocate will provide support and helpful information while the interview is taking place.
    About medical evaluations

Is a medical evaluation required?

  • No child is forced to have a medical evaluation. It is highly recommended that all children have a medical examination conducted by specially trained examiners. It is a head to toe non-invasive exam, which is comforting and therapeutic for the child.

Will the parent/guardian be present for the medical examination?

  • Each case is different and is discussed with the child and family.

Will the examination definitely show whether or not abuse occurred?

  • Most children have no physical injuries after sexual abuse, but this certainly does not mean that abuse didn’t occur.

What support is available for children and parents?

  • Abused children often do not feel good about themselves. A child may feel frustrated, guilty, scared or helpless. Professional counseling can help children and parents. A therapist is on sight at the CAC or our Victim Advocates can make a referral.

What support is available for family members?

  • Often it is difficult for family members to begin the healing process. Our Victim Advocates will assess your needs and discuss available services.

What should parents talk about with their children after coming to the CAC?

  • Let your child take the lead. Listen rather than ask questions. Don’t be concerned if your child is too physically or emotionally tired to talk initially. You should always praise your child for being brave and offer both love and support no matter the outcome.