• GET HELP

To report child abuse or neglect, call:

800-894-5533 (from in New Hampshire)
603-271-6562 (from out of state)

Child abuse is not something we like to think about, admit is real, or let alone suspect it be happening to our own children. However, the reality is 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. The more educated we are on the facts and how to teach our children about body safety, the better we are armed in the fight against child abuse. If your child does disclose something of concern to you, consult “How can I help my child?” for suggestions on things you can say and do.

The CACRC is here to help and support you within the investigation process. Please view “The Investigative Team” and “The Interview” for more information on the interview process and what to expect at the CACRC.

The Investigative Team

The County Attorney/Prosecutor

The prosecutor leads the team and has the final decision as to whether charges will be filed. Consideration is given too many factors which will affect the likelihood of success in court. Some of the factors considered are: age and maturity of the child, the child’s ability to testify, whether or not the suspect has confessed, presence of physical evidence, and whether or not there are other witnesses. Prosecution may not happen in every case.

The Law Enforcement Officer

The Rockingham County Police Departments have investigators on the Child Advocacy Center Team. They interview children, non-offending parents, suspects and other witnesses, and gather evidence from the scene of the alleged event.

The Child Protective Service Worker (DCYF)

The role of the Division for Children Youth and Families (DCYF) is to help protect your child. DCYF has no role in the prosecution of the offender. Their primary objective is to work with the family and to develop safety plans and goals. The DCYF social workers conduct some interviews. They may refer you and/or your child to counseling or other community agencies.

Medical Providers

Physicians and Nurse Examiners assigned to the Child Advocacy Center team have years of experience examining children for possible abuse. The exam may not prove if a child has been abused or not. Eighty percent of all children who have been abused have normal exams.

The Forensic Interviewer–CAC Staff Member

The Child Advocacy Center has a trained forensic interviewer on staff that will be doing most of the child interviews. There are some exceptions to this where the police investigator or DCYF worker who has been also trained in forensic interviewing has a rapport with the child or is the only one available. The CAC staff are neutral to the investigation and our primary objective is to obtain information while keeping the child comfortable and safe.

Crisis Center Advocates

The advocate is not part of the investigative team but is an integral part of the multi-disciplinary team.They provide the non-offending parents with advocacy, support, information and referrals in a confidential manner. They sit with the non-offending parents while the interview is going on. Having an advocate provide support is voluntary and they can be asked to leave at any time. Services that are provided include a 24-hour Support Line, accompaniment to the hospital, police department, or court, a safe confidential 24 hour emergency shelter and support groups. Our advocates are from Haven, Bridges, or YWCA.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Unfortunately, signs of Sexual Abuse in children are not black and white or clear cut. Assessment is difficult and multifacited. 30-40% of kids are asymptomatic following abuse and 30% exhibit few symptoms. Sexual behavior is one of many potential indicators. That being said, it is important as caregivers to know normal sexual developement in children in order to recognize concerning behavior. We hope that the following information will be used as a guide.

Normal Sexual Behavior

Birth to 2 Years
Sexual Knowledge

  • Gender identity
  • Origins of self esteem
  • Learns labels for body parts
  • Uses slang labels

Sexual Behavior

  • Genital exploration
  • Penile erections, vaginal lubrication
  • Genital pleasure is possible
  • Touches sex parts
  • Enjoys nudity

3 to 5 Years
Sexual Knowledge

  • Gender performance
  • Gender differences are understood
  • Limited information about pregnancy & childbirth
  • Knows labels for parts but prefers slang
  • Uses elimination functions for sexual parts

Sexual Behavior

  • Masturbates for pleasure, may experience orgasm
  • Sex play with siblings or peers; shows genitals; explores own/others genitals
  • Enjoys nudity
  • Uses elimination words with peers

6 to 12 Years
Sexual Knowledge

  • Genital basis of gender
  • Correct labels, uses slang
  • Sexual aspects of pregnancy
  • Increasing knowledge: masturbation, intercourse, physical aspects of puberty

Sexual Behavior

  • Sex games, role lpay, fantasy, “doctor”
  • Masturbation in private
  • Modesty, embarrassment: hides games from adults
  • Puberty begins: menstruation, wet dreams
  • Interested in media sex
  • Uses sexual language

13+ Years
Sexual Knowledge

  • Sexual Intercourse
  • Contraception
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexual Behavior

  • Puberty continues: most girls menstruate by 16; most boys capable of ejaculation by 15
  • Dating begins
  • Sexual contacts common: kissing, petting
  • Sexual fantasy, dreams
  • Sexual Intercourse may occur in up to 75% by age 18

Body Safety

There is no perfect age to talk with your children about their bodies and being safe, but it is an important conversation to have. Avoid just falling back on the old warning of “stranger danger”, as a majority of children are abused by someone they know. These tips are not meant to be the complete answer, but are some general guidelines for speaking with your child:

• Talk about the parts of the body that are considered “private” – these are the body parts covered by a bathing suit and that no one should touch (unless getting help with toileting, bathing, or part of a doctor’s exam).

• Use the correct terms for their body parts – this helps to ensure that others will know what they are talking about if something were to have happened.

• Explain they are not to touch anyone else’s private body parts.

• Talk about what your child should do if someone touches them or shows them their private parts. Help them identify a safe adult to tell.

• Discuss the difference between surprises and secrets.

• Become familiar with the signs of abuse.

• Encourage children to talk to you about things that make them feel sad, uncomfortable, scared – and to trust their feelings.

• Do not force children to hug people – allow them to be in control of their own bodies. Ask your child questions about possible situations, like: “What would you do if….Who would you tell…”. If your child does disclose something that is concerning, avoid the temptation to ask direct or leading questions. Bring this information to the attention of the appropriate authorities: the Division for Children Youth and Families (1-800-894-5533) and/or your local police department. Ask for help, get support for yourself, and let your child know that you are proud of them for talking to you.

How can I help my child?

Listen.
Be aware of the bravery it took for your child to come forward. Provide safety, love and support. Let them know it is okay to cry or be mad. Make sure your child understands it is not his or her fault and that THEY ARE NOT IN TROUBLE.

Some things you can say…

  • I believe you.
  • I know it’s not your fault.
  • I’m glad I know about it.
  • I’m sorry this happened to you.
  • I will take care of you.
  • I’m not sure what will happen next.
  • Nothing about YOU made this happen. It has happened to other children, too.
  • You don’t need to take care of me.
  • I am upset, but not with you.
  • I’m angry at the person who did this to you.
  • I’m sad. You may see me cry. That’s all right. I will be able to take care of you. I am not mad at you.
  • You can still love someone but hate what they did to you.

Some things you can do…

• Remain calm
• Believe the child
• Allow the child to talk
• Show interest and concern
• Reassure and support the child
• Take action

Try not to panic/overreact, press the child to talk, promise anything you can’t control, confront the offender, blame or minimize the child’s feelings, or overwhelm the child with questions.

The Interview

Before the Interview

How should I tell my child that he/she has to talk about this situation with a stranger – especially if they’ve already disclosed to me?
Tell your child that they will be meeting with someone who is a specialist (or you pick the word that will best relate to your child, i.e. a counselor, an interviewer, etc.) in talking to children about very difficult things. Tell your child that even though they’ve told things to you (or someone else), it’s important that the information is given to the adult whose job it is to keep kids safe, and that they talk to many children about these kinds of things.

When should I tell my child this will be taking place?
Tell your child about the appointment early enough that they don’t feel like it’s a surprise, but not so far in advance that they have a lot of time to worry about it.

What if my child starts to ask me questions about what they have to say?
Tell them that you honestly don’t know what will be asked but that it’s important for them to be honest. Assure your child that this person works with children all the time and whose job it is to talk to kids about difficult things. Tell them you want him/her to answer all the questions the best they can and to tell the truth.

Give the child permission to talk about what they have disclosed. Be general in what you tell the child (i.e. “It’s okay to tell the interviewer what you told me (or whomever they told) about what happened to you”). Do not repeat the details of what they have disclosed or ask them any additional questions.

What if my child wants to know why they just can’t tell me and let me tell the other people?
Tell your child that you might not know what questions to ask or how to ask them. Assure them that they are not in any trouble and that they are doing what every person should always do: tell someone when someone else has done something wrong.

What if my child asks if I’ll be in the room with them?
Assure your child that while they are talking to the interviewer, you’ll be in a nearby room getting information about how to help them stay safe.

What if my child says they don’t want to do this because they already told the story?
Tell your child that you understand their feelings of frustration, especially since it may be difficult to talk about. Tell them how proud you are of their honesty and bravery for telling in the first place, and assure them that talking to professionals will help keep them and other children safe.

The Day of the Interview

On the day of the interview, the non-offending caregiver will be greeted in the waiting room by a local Crisis Center Advocate. It is the non-offending parent’s decision as to whether or not they want the advocate to stay or leave.

After learning more about the role of the Crisis Center Advocate and the services they have to offer, the non-offending caregiver will be shown the interview room where the interviewer and child will be during the interview. The non-offending caregiver will then be invited into the team room before the interview, where they will meet the multi-disciplinary team members. At this time, the interview process will be explained and any questions or concerns will be addressed. The caregiver will NOT be permitted to stay in the team room during the interview of the child.

After the interview, the non-offending caregiver will be invited back into the team room to meet with the multi-disciplinary team and discuss the next steps in the process. Again, questions and concerns will be addressed by the team. The caregiver will leave the Child Advocacy Center with everyone’s contact information and will be kept in the loop during the process of the investigation.

Why can’t the non-offending caregiver stay to watch the interview?
Often times they are a “fresh complaint witness” as the child has disclosed to them. If they watch the interview it can change their recollection of what the child said to them, which can or may weaken the case.

Children are less likely to be completely honest if they know that their caregivers are watching. They are apt to want to protect their caregivers from the truth and they may be embarrassed to be completely honest and/or forthcoming.

We need the non-offending caregivers to be in the best state possible when the child leaves the CAC so that they can support the child. If the caregiver watched the interview, it could be very upsetting, potentially affecting their ability to emotionally support the child.

After the Interview

Should I ask my child about his/her experience?
You can certainly ask about how things went but don’t press the child for specifics, as the goal of the interview is that the child doesn’t have to keep repeating the discomforting details. Asking things like what the room was like and if the interviewer was nice are perfectly comfortable questions; it shows you’re interested in their experience but respect they may be uncomfortable giving you too many details.

What if my child wants to tell me everything?
This is unlikely as children are protective of their parents and caregivers, which is oftentimes why they are reluctant to talk about such sensitive things in the first place. However, if your child appears to want to talk more to you, certainly be a good listener and be careful not to react in a way that makes your child feel guilty (i.e. “Why did you do that?”) or make them feel ashamed (i.e. “You should have not gone there.”). Let them say what they have to say and thank them again for their honesty. Let the investigative team know if the child says anything additional/new that you think they should know about.

Should my child show signs of sadness or shame?
There is no normal reaction to these types of situations. Some children may feel relieved that they’ve been able to share their experience, or they may just seem like their normal selves and want to play or do an activity that is fun. Some children may show sadness or fear, especially if their perpetrator is a family member(s) or someone known well and trusted by the child. A child telling his/her experience during the interview can be re-traumatizing, so be mindful of how he/she may be feeling before and after so be supportive and follow his/her lead.

To get in touch with one of our staff members, please fill out the Contact Form below.

If a child tells you that he or she has been hurt, or you are concerned that a child may be a victim of abuse or neglect, you are required to call the Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) Central Intake Unit at:

Phone: 800.894.5533
Hours: 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 or neglect is not required to make a report, and you may do so anonymously.

CONTACT US

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