Mississippi state law requires any individual "having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child or an abused child" to make a report of abuse or neglect.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, or is at risk for abuse or neglect, you should make a report to the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.
To make a report of child abuse, call the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services' hotline number 1.800.222.8000 or go to www.msabusehotline.mdhs.ms.gov.
When you call, it would be helpful if you can provide as much of the following information as possible:
- Child's name, age, and address
- Name of child's caregiver or guardian
- Nature of the abuse
- Identity of offender
If you believe that the child is in immediate danger, contact your local law enforcement office.
Child abuse is a very personal issue for Americans, who express grave concern about the problem.
- 59% personally know someone who has been a child abuse victim.
- 21% admit that they were abused as a child.
- 19% have a relative who has been a child abuse victim.
- 95% say they are concerned about child abuse.
- 97% believe that everyone has a responsibility to protect children and prevent child abuse.
Americans are hesitant to contact authorities.
- When actually confronted with suspected child abuse, only 6% of Americans said they contacted authorities, 6% contacted the police, and 19% contacted child protection services.
- 48% of people said they would not go to the authorities, contact the police, or contact child protection services.
- 26% said they had been in a situation where child abuse was suspected but they didn’t know what to do.
- 33% said people are reluctant to report suspected cases because they do not want to get involved.
Many Americans cannot identify the warning signs of child abuse.
- 72% say it is difficult to identify child abuse. 52% say it is extremely difficult.
- 42% say they suspected child abuse had occurred but just were not sure.
As a parent it is important to know who is living your area, so you can make sure your children stay safe. This is a link to a sex offender website for the state of Mississippi
. Visit it to remain totally aware of your neighborhood demographics.
10 Tips for Parents on Monitoring your Child’s Social Media
5 Steps to Protecting your Child from Sexual Abuse: (adapted from Darkness to Light website)
- Age Appropriate: Make sure your child is of the appropriate age for the social media site they want to use. Some social media sites like Facebook have an age requirement for users, so make sure your child is of the proper age before letting them on.
- Privacy: Once your child has established a social media site make sure that you go in and check their privacy settings. You want your child’s privacy settings to be set to the highest form. This way a stranger cannot see or try and get in contact with your child.
- Monitoring Software: With the technology that we have today, there are kinds of software out there for parents. This software allows parents to be able to see the sites that their child is visiting on the internet. This is a great tool for parents, because it lets you know what sites your child is visiting most often and if those sites are something you would like your child to be looking at.
- Set Rules: Just like anything else your child does, social media needs to have some rules and regulations. This way you can feel more comfortable with your child on social media and also this allows your child to know what is allowed and what is not. When it comes to the rules they can range from only being allowed on social media during certain times of the day or only being able to use the computer in certain areas of the house.
- Keep Track: It’s very easy for children to post anything they would like to social media now, but as a parent you need to make sure that you are checking what your child is putting out there for the world to see. When it comes to your child posting pictures makes sure that you approve all pictures before you child posts them to the internet. Also make sure you are keeping track of the posts of the people your child is following on social media, that way you know if they are posting stuff that is okay for your child to be seeing.
- Cellphones: Technology has become so advanced now that even a child’s cellphone is just like being on a computer to them. Since this is the case it is important to also be monitoring your child’s cellphone just like you would the computer. So be sure to set rules and limits with the cellphone as well.
- Reputation: Be sure to explain to your child that once something is on the web it is always on the web. This is great advice, because just because your child thinks they deleted it off the internet does not mean it’s not still out there. This is how you can explain to your children how their social media sites can cause them to have a certain reputation by what they post. This is why they should only be posting appropriate pictures and statuses as well as following people that do the same.
- Strangers: Even with all the privacy settings that social media sites have sometimes strangers can still get in. It is important to establish with your children that the same no talking to strangers rule still applies online. Also let your child know that if a stranger contacts him or her then you need to know as soon as possible so you can handle the situation.
- Stay Updated: With all the new technology that comes out on a daily basis. It is important that you stay on top of what new social media sites your children are getting on to. By establishing the rule that your child must ask your permission before getting on to a new social media site will help you keep better track of what the latest form of social media is.
- Role Model: Just like anything else you do, your children are always watching and learning by your example. This is just the same for how you use social media. So make sure you are setting a good example for your children when it comes to social media. Make sure that you are only posting appropriate pictures and statuses. Also make sure that you set limits for how often you are on social media. The same goes for the cellphone. The most common rule out there for the cellphone is no texting and driving and as a parent this is an important one for you to follow. It is important to show your child when it’s appropriate to be on the phone and when it’s not.
- Learn the Facts:
- 1 in 5 children are sexually solicited while on the internet
- Youth are 2.5 times more likely to be raped by adults
- About 35% of victims are 11 years old or younger
- 30 to 40% of children are abused by family members
- Nearly 40% are abused by older or larger children
- Serial perpetrators may have as many as 400 victims in their lifetimes.
- Minimize Opportunity for Child Sexual Abuse
- Understand that abusers often become friendly with potential victims and their families, enjoying family activities, earning trust, and gaining time alone with children.
- Think carefully about the safety of any isolated, one-on-one settings. Choose group situations when possible.
- Think carefully about the safety of situations in which older youth have access to younger children. Make sure that multiple adults are present who can supervise.
- Set an example by personally avoiding isolated, one-on-one situations with children other than your own.
- Monitor children’s internet use. Offenders use the internet to lure children into physical contact.
- Drop in unexpectedly when the child is alone with an adult or another youth, even if it is a trusted family member.
- Make sure outings are observable- if not by you, then by others.
- Ask adults about the specifics of planned activities before the child leaves your care. Notice their ability to be specific.
- Talk with the child following the activity. Notice the child’s mood and whether he or she can tell you with confidence how the time was spent.
- Find a way to tell adults who care for children that you and the child are educated about child sexual abuse. Be that direct.
- Talk About It
- The abuser shames the child, points out that the child let it happen, or tells the child that his or her parents will be angry.
- The abuser is often manipulative, and may try to confuse the child about what is right and wrong, or tell them the abuse is a “game”.
- The abuser sometimes threatens to harm the child or a family member.
- Children are afraid of disappointing their parents and disrupting the family.
- Children who disclose sexual abuse often tell a trusted adult other than a parent. For this reason, training for people who work with children is especially important.
- Children may tell portions of what happened or pretend it happened to someone else to gauge adult reaction.
- Teach children that it is “against the rules” for adults to act in a sexual way with them, and use examples.
- Teach them what parts of their bodies others should not touch.
- Start early and talk often. Use everyday opportunities to talk about sexual abuse.
- Learn the Signs
- Physical signs of sexual abuse are not common, although redness, rashes/ swelling in the genital area, urinary tract infections, or other such symptoms should be carefully investigated. Also, physical issues associated with anxiety, such as chronic stomach pain or headaches, may occur.
- Emotional or behavioral signals are more common. These can run from withdrawal and depression to unexplained anger and rebellion.
- Sexual behavior and language that are not age-appropriate can be a red flag.
- Be aware that in some children there are no signs whatsoever.
- React Responsibly
- Don’t Overreact - When you react to disclosure with anger or disbelief, the child will likely:
- Feel even more ashamed and guilty.
- Shut down.
- Change or retreat the story, when, in fact, abuse is actually occurring.
- Change the story to match your questions so future telling’s appear to be “coached”. This can be very harmful if the case goes to court later.
- Offer Support
- Think through your response before you react. You’ll be able to respond in a more supportive manner.
- Believe the child and make sure the child knows it.
- Thank the child for telling you and praise the child’s courage.
- Encourage the child to talk, but don’t ask leading questions about details. Asking about details can alter the child’s memory or events. If you must ask questions to keep the child talking, ask open-ended ones like “What happened next?”
- Seek the help of a professional who is trained to interview the child about sexual abuse.
- Professional guidance could be critical to the child’s healing and to any criminal prosecution.
- Assure the child that it’s your responsibility to protect him or her and that you’ll do all you can.
- Report or take action in all cases of suspected abuse, both inside and outside the immediate family.
- Don’t Panic. Sexually abused children who receive support and psychological help can and do heal.
- Report your discovery immediately to law enforcement
- Tell the child’s name and where he or she lives.
- Tell where you are at the present time, where the child is, and where the offender is, if known.
- Tell what the child said to you.
- Tell what interactions you saw between the alleged offender and the child.
- Tell what other behaviors, if any, you’ve observed in the alleged offender.
- Tell what signs in the child you’ve seen.
- Tell what access the alleged offender has to the child.
* Information from the Darkness to Light: End Child Sexual Abuse Website
Facts about Sexual Abuse
- Sexual abuse affects both boys and girls of all ages, in all kinds of neighborhoods and communities. Children are more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know and trust than by a stranger. It is important to remember that abusers do not always use physical force. Many use games, gifts, lies, or threats to engage children and to keep them from telling anyone what has happened.
- Abusers often try to earn the trust of potential victims and their families. This enables them to more easily gain time alone with the children. Abusers are drawn to settings where they can easily gain access to children: schools, sports leagues, clubs, etc.
- According to the National Council of Youth Sports “any programs where adults supervise children represents an obvious opportunity for sexual predators, and youth sports programs are known targets for perpetrators of these crimes.”
How to lower the chance of your child being sexually assaulted
- 80% of sexual assaults occur during one-on-one time with another adult
- Be cautious of the one-on-one time your child has with other adults
- Ask the following questions
- Take the following precautions
- Trust your instincts
- Does the organization conduct background checks on all adults working there?
- Does the organization have policies about recognizing signs and reporting sexual abuse?
- Are all adults trained to recognize and report abuse and on organizational policies?
- Do they have policies about adults having exclusive, one-on-one time with a child?
- If the answer is yes, ensure that you get a copy of policies. Ask how compliance with the rules is monitored and ensured. If the answer is no, ask why not. And if the answer is no, consider whether or not this is a safe place to leave your child.
- Note if one-on-one activities are open and observable.
- Inform staff that you are vigilant about your child’s safety and that sexual abuse is a concern of yours.
- Inform staff that you will be making unannounced visits off and on when your child is in attendance to see how the rules are being followed in the caring for children.
- Stay and observe practice or lessons.
- Talk to your child. Check every day to see how the day went. The more open the communication, the more likely you will get a clear picture of how things are going.
- Pay attention. If your child is uncomfortable being around a certain adult, ask why.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel that the issue of sexual abuse is not taken seriously, trust your instincts and act on them.