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Abuse Reporting in New York 1 Hour Back to Course Index


Abuse Reporting in New York





Abuse is the physical, psychological, or sexual maltreatment of another person.  Several populations are vulnerable to exploitation. 


Domestic violence includes behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other.  These two people can be, or may not be, married.  Domestic violence can include husband against wife, wife against husband, brother against brother, or even roommate against a roommate.  It encompasses anyone in a close type of relationship.


Other types of abuse can be identified as elder abuse and child abuse.  The populations are especially vulnerable and frequently cannot speak for themselves.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines child maltreatment as any act or series of acts or commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, the potential for harm, or the threat of harm to a child.   


Elder abuse refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. 


Currently, there are four widely recognized and identifiable categories of abuse, including:

  • Neglect
  • Physical Abuse
  •  Psychological/Emotional Abuse
  •  Sexual Abuse

Other types of abuse can fit under these categories, such as financial abuse and exploitation.




Neglect is defined as a type of maltreatment that refers to the failure by the caregiver to provide needed, age-appropriate care, although financially able to do so or offered financial or other means to do so.


Types of neglect can include:

  • Physical neglect
  • Educational neglect
  • Emotional/Psychological neglect
  •  Medical neglect


Example of child neglect


Samantha is arrested for drug possession and neglects to tell the arresting officer that her 4-year-old daughter is home alone because she had only intended to be gone for an hour to obtain drugs.  Samantha is held overnight in jail until she plans to post bail.  The neighbors hear Samantha’s daughter crying for her mommy at 2:00 a.m.  They call the police, who find the 4-year-old alone in the apartment.  “My parents both used drugs and when I was growing up, there was no one there to do the basic things that a child needs, like cooking meals.  Mum wouldn’t even notice whether I had or hadn’t gone to school as she was always upstairs smashed out of her face.  I wanted to go to school as I didn’t want a life like my parents.  I could pretend that while I was there everything was fine at home.  No one there knew what was happening at home until the house was raided.”


Example of elder neglect


An 86-year-old man arrived at the emergency room from his son’s home with multiple bed sores all over his back and heels and severe dehydration.  He had restraint marks on his wrist.  His son said they felt like they had to restrain him, or he would wander off during the night.



Psychological and Emotional Abuse

 Psychological abuse is also referred to as emotional abuse and is a form of abuse characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another to psychologically harmful behavior.  It involves the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal and non-verbal conduct.  It is often associated with situations of power imbalance, such as abusive relationships.


Psychological abuse may occur as bullying of individuals by groups, often children, or by one partner in a relationship.  In domestic abuse, psychological abuse nearly always precedes physical violence when this occurs and also accompanies it.  Modern technology has led to new forms of abuse through text messaging and online cyberbullying, particularly in children and young adults.  Methods of abuse include causing fear by intimidation, threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner’s family or friends, destruction of pets and property, and forcing isolation from family, friends, school, or work.  More subtle tactics include putdowns, hiding objects such as keys, then putting them back without the victim seeing, and denying that previous incidents happened. 


Examples of psychological abuse can include:

  •         Putdowns
  •         Threats to leave
  •         Threats to take things away
  •         Hiding keys
  •         Locking the windows or doors to keep someone in


Example of psychological abuse:

Rachel wanted to be well-liked at her school.  She didn’t care if her boyfriend was one of the cool guys, but she just wanted someone to like her.  When Jake, one of the most popular boys in school, asked her to meet him outside of the locker room after school, she was very excited!  They met, and he moved fast…too fast.  She wanted to say “no,” but she wanted him to like her so much that she just went along with his advances.  She hoped he would ask her on a date.  When she got home and finished her homework, she went online and found that the other boys, Jake’s friends, had taken pictures of her that afternoon.  The pictures were embarrassing.  The messages under the pictures from the other kids at school were horrible.  When Rachel got to school the next day, she found her locker was covered in pictures.  When she got to her first class, there was a picture on her seat.  The week continued with pictures and ugly remarks all over the place.  


Physical Abuse

 Physical abuse involves contact intended to cause feelings of intimidation, pain, injury, or other physical suffering or harm. 


There are several indicators of physical abuse:

  •         Frequent physical injuries are attributed to being clumsy or accident-prone.
  •         Injuries that do not seem to fit the explanation
  •         Conflicting explanations
  •         Patches of hair missing
  •         Frequent absences
  •         Awkward movements that suggest the person is in pain or sore
  •         Flinching behavior


Example of physical abuse:

From around age 10, nothing Amy did was good enough for her mom.  They led a very chaotic lifestyle, and for one year they lived in 12 different places.  The houses were all in bad condition, and they were always dirty.

People would say, “You smell,” and Amy was bullied at school because she was different.  The bullies said that if they saw her out of school, they’d kill her.  She was always scared.

Mom had two or three partners with who she’d had turbulent relationships.   Amy was frightened of Mom when she was drunk as she was very unpredictable.  Mom frequently yelled at and hit Amy.  Once she had shoved her so hard, that she fell down the front steps.    

Most of the mom’s boyfriends ignored Amy altogether, but some were mean.  They would hit her too.  One didn’t want Amy “hanging around” her own house, so he told Amy’s mom that he didn’t want her to be there when he was.  When the boyfriend was over, Amy’s mom moved a sleeping bag into the garage for Amy to stay there.  



Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is forcing undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another.  This also can involve using someone for sexual stimulation.  Sexual abuse can include both touching and non-touching behaviors. 


Abusers often do not use physical force but may use play, deception, threats, or other forms of coercion to engage their victims and maintain their silence. 


Signs of sexual abuse in children:

    •         An increase in nightmares and/or other sleeping difficulties
    •         Withdrawn behavior
    •         Angry outbursts
    •         Anxiety
    •         Depression
    •         Not wanting to be left alone with a particular person
    •         Sexual knowledge, language, and/or actions that are inappropriate for the child’s age


Signs of sexual abuse in the elderly:

    •         Bruising on inner thighs
    •         Sexually transmitted diseases or infections
    •         Any sudden change in personality
    •         Acting overly compliant
    •         Odd comments about sex or sexual behaviors
    •         Agitation or aggression
    •         Scared or timid behavior
    •         Withdrawal and wanting to be alone

Although many people who have experienced sexual abuse show behavioral and emotional changes, others do not.  It is critical to focus not only on detection but on prevention and open communication.


Approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused as children.  Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims.  Approximately 30% are relatives, and nearly 60% are other acquaintances such as family friends, caretakers, or neighbors.


Example of sexual abuse:

Lee was 16 when a friend introduced him to her church youth group.  The first time he went, he met the youth leader, Adam.  As Lee got more involved in the group, transport became an issue, and Adam offered to give him lifts.

Quite early on, Adam and Lee began texting.  When Adam suggested we hang out outside the group, Lee didn’t think anything of it.  He thought it was common for youth workers to want to spend time with young people.

Lee didn’t have many friends, so it felt like he’d made a close friend in Adam.  He was paying attention to Lee and enjoyed his company; it felt like he was looking out for Lee.

Then, Adam started encouraging Lee to hang out with him at his house.  He started telling Lee that we had a special friendship.

It was gradual and quite innocent to start with, but Lee began to feel increasingly uncomfortable.  Adam started sitting closer to him on the sofa, trailing his finger along his things.  Lee thought this was strange but not big enough to react to it then.

Over time, Adam started to give him extended hugs and kiss Lee’s face.  He’d tell Lee I was his best mate and what they had was special.  He said it was normal to do these things, even biblical, reading Lee passages from the Bible.

As things continued, Lee told him he wasn’t comfortable with what he was doing.  He didn’t listen and instead ramped things up by kissing Lee on the lips.  The kissing on the lips then became more regular, and Lee felt helpless to tell anybody about what was happening.

When Lee told Adam he wasn’t gay – that he liked girls and wanted him to stop – he’d turn things around by telling him he must want this because he’d instigated it.  He’d threaten to take Lee off the preaching rotation or stop giving him lifts.  He made Lee feel as if he’d be ostracized from the group if he put a stop to things and told Lee constantly that he wasn’t to tell anyone. 

Things escalated when Adam made them masturbate in the same room as each other.  When they weren’t together, he’d text Lee telling him he thought about him while he was masturbating.  He continued to pressure Lee, saying they would spend their lives together and that he wanted us to have sex.


Effects of Abuse

There is a profound long-term impact when people live surrounded by fear, negative moods, family stress, and parental violence.  Research shows that children with domestic violence often develop psychological, emotional, and behavioral problems.

The Centers for Disease Control found that children who witness abuse are at higher risk of:

    • alcohol and substance abuse;
    • health conditions like cancer, depression, and diabetes;
    • poor performance in school; and
    • an early death.

Children who grow up around domestic violence also believe it is normal and often repeat the cycle of violence in their own adult lives.


Children’s Responses 

Children may experience a range of feelings about living with abuse, even if they don’t say it aloud.  Depending on their age, they may:

    • Feel responsible for the abuse, thinking, “If I had been a good girl/boy, the violence wouldn’t have happened.”
    • Carry guilt for not stopping the abuse.
    • Experience constant anxiety.
    • Grieve when they are separated from the abuser.  They may also grieve for the positive image they had of the abuser before they knew about or experienced the abuse.
    • Feel ambivalent.  They may have positive and negative feelings about the abuser and/or the victim.
    • Be afraid of abandonment.  After leaving behind the abusive parent/guardian, they may be scared the victimized parent will leave them or die.
    • Seek constant attention from adults.
    • Fear of being physically harmed.  A significant percentage of children who witness domestic violence are also physically abused.
    • Be embarrassed.  Older children may especially be ashamed of how other people view the family.
    • Worry deeply about the future.  Because violence is unpredictable, children learn to live in a state of constant uncertainty.


Signs of Abuse in Children

Signs of Physical Abuse

    • Unexplained changes in the child’s body or behavior or regression to earlier developmental stages
    • Any injury (bruise, burn, fracture, abdominal or head injury) that cannot be explained
    • Watchful and “on alert” behavior, as if the child is waiting for something bad to happen
    • Shying away from touch, flinches at sudden movements or seems afraid to go home
    • Appears to be afraid of adults
    • Wears clothing inappropriate to the season or weather to cover injuries, i.e., long-sleeved shirts on hot days
    • School failure
    • Frequent headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause

Signs of Emotional Abuse

    • Behavioral changes
    • Speech disorders
    • Substance abuse
    • Developmental delays
    • Lack of attachment to the parent
    • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong
    • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantrums)
    • Extremely passive or aggressive behavior

Signs of Sexual Abuse

    • Extreme sexual behavior that seems inappropriate for the child’s age
    • Sexual acting out on other children
    • Genital pain, itching, swelling, or bleeding, as well as a sexually transmitted disease
    • Refusal to change for physical activities (e.g., P.E. class) or refusal to participate in physical activities
    • Depression
    • Runaway
    • Fear of being alone with adults, especially of a particular gender
    • Suicide attempts
    • Trouble walking or sitting
    • Nightmares or bedwetting
    • Sudden changes in appetite
    • Fear of a particular person or family member  

Signs of Neglect

    • Frequently absent from school
    • Theft of food or money
    • Consistently poor hygiene
    • Lack of appropriate clothing for weather or season
    • Frequently unsupervised, left alone, or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments
    • Lacks needed medical or dental care

Signs of Abuse In The Elderly

    • Dehydration, malnutrition (without illness-related cause), untreated bedsores, poor personal hygiene, unattended or untreated health problems, hazardous living conditions/arrangements (for example, improper wiring, no heat, or no running water)
    • Unsanitary and unclean living conditions (for example, dirt, fleas, lice on person, soiled bedding, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing)
    • A nursing home resident reports of being mistreated
    • An injury that has not been cared for properly
    • An injury that is inconsistent with an explanation 
    • Cuts, puncture wounds, burns, bruises, welts
    • Poor coloration, sunken eyes or cheeks
    • Inappropriate administration of medication
    • Frequent use of hospital or health care/doctor-shopping
    • Lack of necessities such as food, water, or utilities
    • Lack of personal effects, pleasant living environment, personal items
    • Forced isolation

Behavioral Signs:

    • Fear; Anxiety; Agitation; Anger
    • Isolation, Withdrawal; Depression
    • Non-responsiveness; Resignation; Ambivalence
    • Contradictory statements; Implausible stories
    • Hesitation to talk openly; Confusion or disorientation

Signs by Caregiver:

    • Prevents the elder from speaking to or seeing visitors
    • Anger, indifference, and aggressive behavior toward the elder
    • History of substance abuse, mental illness, criminal behavior, or family violence
    • Lack of affection toward the elder
    • Flirtation or coyness is a possible indicator of inappropriate sexual relationships
    • Conflicting accounts of incidents
    • Withholds affection
    • Talks of the elder as a burden



Reporting Abuse 

Mandated reporters are required to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment when they are presented with a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment in a situation where a child, parent, or other person legally responsible for the child is before the mandated reporter
when the mandated reporter is acting in his or her official or professional capacity. “Other person legally responsible” refers to a guardian, caretaker, or other person 18 years of age or older who is responsible for the care of the child.

Mandated reporters who are social services workers have expanded reporting requirements. Social services workers are required to report when in their official or professional role, they are presented with a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment where any person is before the
mandated reporter and the mandated reporter is acting in his or her official or professional capacity.

Vulnerable Adult Abuse

Any person in the community who has a concern about a vulnerable adult may make a report.  The following are required by law to report abuse:

With respect to persons in residential healthcare facilities:

  • Operators and employees of a residential health care facility;
  • Employees of any corporation, partnership, organization or other entity which, or other person who, is under contract with a residential health care facility;
  • Nursing home administrators;
  • Physicians;
  • Medical examiners;
  • Coroners;
  • Physician’s associates;
  • Specialist’s assistants;
  • Osteopaths;
  • Chiropractors;
  • Physical therapists;
  • Occupational therapists;
  • Registered professional nurses;
  • Licensed practical nurses;
  • Dentists;
  • Podiatrists;
  • Optometrists;
  • Pharmacists;
  • Psychologists;
  • Licensed master social workers;
  • Licensed clinical social workers;
  • Speech pathologists; or Audiologists.

With respect to vulnerable persons:

  • Custodian;
  • Physician, registered physician assistant, or surgeon;
  • Medical examiner or coroner;
  • Dentist or dental hygienist;
  • Osteopath;
  • Optometrist;
  • Chiropractor;
  • Podiatrist;
  • Resident, intern;
  • Psychologist;
  • Registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, or nurse practitioner;
  • Social worker;
  • Emergency medical technician;
  • Licensed creative arts therapist, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed mental health counselor, licensed psychoanalyst, licensed behavior analyst, certified behavior analyst assistant, licensed speech/language pathologist or audiologist, licensed physical therapist, or licensed occupational therapist;
  • Hospital personnel engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of persons; Christian Science practitioner;
  • Mental health professional;
  • Person credentialed by the Office of Alcoholism and substance abuse services;
  • Peace officer;
  • Police officer;
  • District attorney or assistant district attorney; or
  • Investigator employed in the office of a district attorney or other law enforcement official.

When is a report required?

People in Residential Health Care Facilities

  • Reasonable cause to believe a person receiving care or services in a residential health care facility has been abused, mistreated, neglected,
    or subjected to the misappropriation of property, other than by a person receiving care or services in the facility.
  • Anyone may report abuse, mistreatment, neglect or misappropriation of property if he or she has reasonable cause to believe that a
    person receiving care or services has been abused, mistreated, neglected, or subjected to the misappropriation of property in a residential
    health care facility.

Vulnerable Persons

  • With respect to vulnerable persons, upon discovery of a reportable incident (abuse or neglect).
    • For purposes of this article, “discovery” occurs when the mandated reporter witnesses a suspected reportable incident or when
      another person, including the vulnerable person, comes before the mandated reporter in the mandated reporter’s professional or official capacity and provides the mandated reporter with reasonable cause to suspect that the vulnerable person has been subjected to a reportable incident.

To report vulnerable adult abuse:

Toll-Free 1-855-373-2122 

With respect to people in residential healthcare facilities, must immediately report by telephone, followed by a written report within 48 hours to the NY Department of Health.

With respect to vulnerable persons, allegations of reportable incidents (abuse or neglect) shall be reported immediately to the vulnerable persons’ central register upon discovery.

A written report to the register should include:

  • Name, title and contact information of every person known to the mandated reporter to have the same information as the mandated reporter concerning the reportable incident.

With respect to vulnerable persons, forms provided by the justice center to contain:

Name and contact information of person making the report;

If report made by a custodian, any other staff who have the same information;
Name and address of facility or provider agency;
Names of the operator and administrator of the facility, if known;
Date, time, specific location and description of incident;
Name and contact information of subject of reportable incident, if known;
Name of vulnerable person alleged to have been subjected to a reportable incident;
Names of next of kin or sponsors for vulnerable person who is alleged to have been subjected to a reportable incident, if known; and
Any other information or documentation the executive director believes may be helpful.
With respect to persons in residential health care facilities, written reports may be made on forms supplied by the Department of Health
and shall include:
The identity of the person making the report and where she can be found;
The name and address of the residential health care facility;
The names of the operator and administrator of the facility (if known);
The name of the subject of the alleged abuse, mistreatment, neglect or misappropriation of property (if known);
The nature and extent of the abuse, mistreatment, neglect, or misappropriation of property;
The date, time, and specific location of the occurrence;
The names of next of kin or sponsors of the subject of the alleged abuse, mistreatment, neglect, or misappropriation of property (if
known); and
Any other information which the person making the report believes would be helpful.
Written reports made other than on forms supplied by the commissioner which contain the information required by statute shall be treated
as if made on such forms.
Any person or official required to report allegations of reportable incidents pursuant to this section may take or cause to be taken color
photographs of visible trauma and the face of the vulnerable person named in the report and upon the consent of a person authorized to
consent to medical care for the vulnerable person, shall, if medically indicated, cause to be performed a radiological examination of the
vulnerable person. Any photographs or radiological examinations taken shall be provided to the justice center for use only for the
purposes of an investigation of a reportable incident.



Child Abuse

New York requires mandated reporters to take a New York State Education Department mandated training program.  For more information on where to obtain this training please visit

Mandated reporters are required to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment when they are presented with a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment in a situation where a child, parent, or other person legally responsible for the child is before the mandated reporter
when the mandated reporter is acting in his or her official or professional capacity. “Other person legally responsible” refers to a guardian, caretaker, or other person 18 years of age or older who is responsible for the care of the child.

Mandated reporters who are social services workers have expanded reporting requirements. Social services workers are required to report when in their official or professional role, they are presented with a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment where any person is before the
mandated reporter and the mandated reporter is acting in his or her official or professional capacity.


Reasonable Cause to Suspect

Reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment means that, based on your rational observations, professional training, and experience, you have a suspicion that the parent or other person legally responsible for a child is responsible for harming that child or placing that child in imminent danger of harm. Your suspicion can be as simple as distrusting an explanation for an injury.

As soon as you suspect abuse or maltreatment, you must report your concerns by telephone to the New York Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). The SCR is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to receive your call. The timeliness of your call is vital to the timeliness of intervention by the local department of social services’ Child Protective Services (CPS) unit. You are not required to notify the parents or other persons legally responsible either before or after your call to the SCR. In fact, in some cases, alerting the parent may hinder the local CPS investigation and adversely affect its ability to assess the safety of the children.

The telephone numbers to report abuse or maltreatment by a parent, foster care or day care are:
Mandated Reporter (800) 635-1522
Public Hotline (800) 342-3720
For Abuse by Institutional Staff:  1-855-373-2122

Oral reports to the SCR from a mandated reporter must be followed within 48 hours by a written report to the local department of social services’ CPS unit on form LDSS-2221A.

A copy of this form and the local mailing address can be obtained by contacting your local department of social services, or by visiting the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) website at Click on “Forms”, then click on “Try a keyword search…”, enter the
form number in the box and click “Find”.

To contact your local department of social services, click here:  

What Happens When I Call the SCR?

There may be times when you have very little information on which to base your suspicion of abuse or maltreatment, but this should not prevent you from calling the SCR. A trained specialist at the SCR will help to determine if the information you are providing can be registered as a report.

The LDSS-2221A Mandated Reporter form can be used to help you organize the identifying or demographic information you have at your disposal. Be sure to ask the SCR specialist for the “Call I.D.” assigned to the report you have made.

If the SCR staff does not register the child abuse or maltreatment report, the reason for their decision should be clearly explained to you. You may also request to speak to a supervisor, who can help make determinations in difficult or unusual cases.

The Social Services Law provides confidentiality for mandated reporters and all sources of child abuse and maltreatment reports. OCFS and local CPS are not permitted to release to the subject of the report any data that would identify the source of a report unless the source has given written permission for them to do so. Information regarding the source of the report may be shared with court officials, police, and district attorneys, but only in certain circumstances.


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