Child Abuse

The Northampton Police Department is committed to the prevention, investigation and prosecution of child abuse.  Every Officer has received training in child abuse response, recognition and investigation.  Some of our Officers and Detectives have extensive training in this area.  The majority of child abuse cases are handled by Detectives, who have a well-established relationship with the Child Abuse Unit within the Northwestern District Attorney’s  Office.

What is child abuse?

The abuse of children takes many forms: physical, sexual, psychological and neglect.  Each form of abuse can overlap with the others.  For example, sexual abuse may be both psychologically and physically scarring.

How common is child abuse?

According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys report child sexual abuse.

Who sexually abuses children?

According to the same study, 93% of victims were abused by someone that they knew and 34% of victims were abused by family members.   

What are the laws related to child abuse?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has many laws that protect children.  Some laws that protect children from physical violence are similar to those that protect everyone and are not child-specific.  Examples include assault and battery or assault and battery with a Dangerous Weapon.  There are other laws that target offenses that are sexual in nature.  Unless specified, a minor is a person under the age of 18.  These laws include:

Rape of a Child Under 16 (c. 265/22A)
Aggravated Rape of a Child Under 16 (c. 265/22B)
Statutory Rape of a Person Under 16 (c. 265/23
Aggravated Statutory Rape of a Person Under 16 (c. 265/23A)
Drugging a Person for Sexual Intercourse (c. 272/3)
Indecent Assault and Battery on a Person 14 & Over (c. 265/13H)
Indecent Assault and Battery on a Child Under 14 (c. 265/13B)
Indecent Exposure (c. 272/53)
Open and Gross Lewdness (c. 272/16)
Secret Video, Photo, or Electronic Surveillance of Partial Nudity (c. 272/104)
Posing a Child for Sexual Photographs (c. 272/29A)
Disseminating Child Pornography (c. 272/29B)
Possession of Child Pornography (c. 272/29C)
Dissemination of Obscene Matter to Minors (c. 272/28)
Incest (c. 272/17)

 What is the age of consent in Massachusetts?

Anyone age 16 and over may consent to sexual intercourse.  If a 15 year old has sex with a 17 year old boyfriend or girlfriend, this is, by law, statutory rape as no 15 year old can consent to sexual intercourse.  Also, if two 15 year olds have sexual intercourse with each other, they have both, according to the law, committed statutory rape.

What if the incident(s) happened a long time ago?

As of 2005, the current statute of limitations in Massachusetts is 27 years after the victim turns 16 (age 43) or 27 years after the incident was reported to the police.  If a 10 year old child reports the incident to police at age 10, then that child will have until age 37 to report the event and have criminal charges filed.  The statute only involves time when the suspect is in the Commonwealth.  If a suspect is no longer living in the state, then the statute of limitations is not applicable.

What are the mandatory reporting laws related to child abuse?

Many people, such as police officers, nurses, physicians, dentists, social workers, day care workers, firefighters, EMT’s, foster parents, psychiatrists and teachers, are all mandated reporters according to Massachusetts general law c. 119/51A.  This means that any person who is a mandatory reporter must file a report with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) if they have reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect happened or is happening to a child.  An immediate oral report is to be filed with DCF (1-800-792-5200) and that report must be followed up by a written report within 48 hours. 

What should I do if I believe that a child is being abused?

Anyone with a reasonable belief that a child is being abused should notify the police or DCF.

What should I do if I believe that my child has been or is being abused?

If the abuse is on-going the safety of the child is the most critical concern.  Once the child’s safety is established, you should contact the police department and ask to speak with a Detective, if available, or with a Police Officer.  It is most likely that the investigator will ask for some basic information about the child, the parents’ information and the suspect’s information.  Some basic facts about the incident(s) will be obtained from the caller.

What happens once I contact the police?

The Northampton Police Department is fortunate to be part of a countywide partnership with the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Children and Families.  These agencies work together in order to best investigate cases so that the victims and their families are best served.  After an initial report is taken by an investigator, the Detective will write a preliminary report and will contact DCF and the Child Abuse Unit within the DA’s office.  A special interview, designed specifically for cases involving children, will be set up.  The interview will be conducted by a Forensic Interviewer who is an expert in these cases.  The great benefit to this technique is that the child only has to be interviewed once and representatives from all agencies, the police, DCF and the DA’s office, do not have to conduct separate interviews with the child.

What happens if my child doesn’t disclose any abuse?

Child abuse is difficult to talk about and children may have trouble talking with the forensic interviewer about abusive behavior.  All agencies maintain a case file with the family and the matter can always be investigated again at a later date if the child is able to talk about the incident in the future. 

What happens if my child does disclose abuse?

The case will be investigated further by the case Detective.  Each case is handled differently but a suspect may be arrested or summonsed to court for arraignment.  This marks the beginning of the criminal court process. 

What if I have questions but I am not sure that I want to file a report?

Officers are available 24 hours a day to handle phone calls from people who have questions about criminal matters.  You may call the police department and ask to speak with someone about your case.

CHILD ABUSE LINKS

Department of Children and Families (DCF)

Northwestern District Attorney's Office- Children's Advocacy Center

Massachusetts General Laws

Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB)

NPD: Located at 29 Center Street, Northampton MA 01060 | Emergencies: 911 | Business Line: 413-587-1100 | Fax: 413-587-1137