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Abuse Reporting in Alaska 1 Hour Back to Course Index

 

Abuse Reporting in Alaska

 

 

 

 

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

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 

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:

  • Physicians or other licensed healthcare providers
  • Mental health professionals, including licensed marital and family therapists
  • Teachers or other education staff
  • Pharmacists
  • Nursing home, residential care, and health facility administrators
  • Home health aides and emergency medical services personnel
  • Law Enforcement
  • Guardians and Conservators
  • Village Public Safety Officers (VPSO)
  • Village health aides
  • Social Workers
  • Members of clergy
  • A caregiver for the vulnerable adult
  • Employees of service grant agencies funded by the Department of Administration for the provision of services to older Alaskans, the Department of Health, and the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

To report vulnerable adult abuse:

Call 1-800-478-9996 (in state only)
Call 907-269-3666
Or via the Centralized Report

Any incident in which a vulnerable adult suffers harm from abandonment, abuse, exploitation, neglect or self-neglect should be reported. Mandated reporters are encouraged to use the “Report of Harm for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults” form available HERE to report incidents to Adult Protective Services. 

A report must be received by Adult Protective Services within 24 hours of the reporter becoming aware of the alleged abuse, exploitation, or neglect. Should the form be inaccessible or unusable for any reason, mandated reporters are instructed to not delay reporting and should call instead.

Mandated reporters who knowingly fail to report the abandonment, abuse, exploitation, neglect, or self-neglect of a vulnerable adult may be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor. In the case of an emergency, reporters may contact their local law enforcement before contacting Adult Protective Services.

Investigatory reports and reports of the abandonment, abuse, exploitation, neglect, or self-neglect of a vulnerable adult are confidential and are not subject to public inspection and copying. Investigative reports may be used by appropriate agencies or individuals inside and outside the state in connection with investigations or judicial proceedings involving the abandonment, abuse, exploitation, neglect, or self-neglect of a vulnerable adult. Individuals who report abandonment, abuse, exploitation, neglect, or self-neglect of a vulnerable adult may remain anonymous.

Is there Immunity from Liability?

Persons who make reports in good faith are immune from liability and protected by law from retaliation.

 

Child Abuse

Alaska requires Mandatory Child Abuse Reporters to participate in training located at:

Mandatory Reporter Training

While it is everyone’s responsibility to report child abuse and neglect, there are many in Alaska who are required to report by law.  State law (A.S. 47.17.020) requires that the following people report child maltreatment:

  • Practitioners of the healing arts, including:
    • Chiropractors
    • Mental health counselors, marital and family therapists, and social workers
    • Dentists and dental hygienists
    • Health aids
    • Nurses, nurse practitioners, and certified nursing aides
    • Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants
    • Physicians, and physician assistants
    • Psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychological associates
    • Audiologists and hearing aid dealers
    • Speech-language pathologists
    • Religious healing practitioners
    • Acupuncturists
    • Surgeons
  • Administrative officers of institutions, including public and private hospitals or other facilities for medical diagnosis, treatment, or care
  • Paid employees of domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs, and crisis intervention and prevention programs
  • Paid employees of an organization that provides counseling or treatment to individuals seeking to control their use of drugs or alcohol
  • School teachers and school administrative staff
  • Athletic coaches 
  • Peace officers and officers of the state Department of Corrections
  • Childcare providers, including foster parents, daycare providers, and paid staff
  • Members of child fatality review teams, and multidisciplinary child protection teams
  • Volunteers who interact with children in a public or private school for more than four hours a week

Additional requirements relating to those working with Alaska Native and American Indian children

In addition to those under state law, federal law (25 U.S.C. 3202, 18 U.S.C. 1169) requires that tribes and tribal organizations that receive federal funding and individuals who provide services to children in tribal communities include some additional categories of mandatory reporters:

  • Physician, surgeon, dentist, podiatrist, chiropractor, nurse, dental hygienist, optometrist, medical examiner, emergency medical technician, paramedic, or health care provider
  • Teacher, school counselor, instructional aide, teacher’s aide, teacher’s assistant, or bus driver employed by any tribal, federal, public, or private school
  • Administrative officer, supervisor of child welfare and attendance, or truancy officer of any tribal, federal, public, or private school
  • Child daycare worker, head start teacher, public assistance worker, a worker in a group home or residential or daycare facility, or social worker
  • Psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychological assistant
  • Licensed or unlicensed marriage, family, or child counselor
  • A person employed in the mental health profession
  • A law enforcement officer, probation officer, a worker in a juvenile rehabilitation or detention facility, or a person employed in a public agency who is responsible for enforcing statutes and judicial orders

In addition, under federal law, anyone who supervises a mandatory reporter is also considered a mandatory reporter.

Federal law states generally that individuals who have a legal or other responsibility for an Indian child’s welfare through an Indian tribe or organization, Tribal consortium, or on Tribal lands, including village corporations, lands held by incorporated native groups, or regional corporations, and reservations, are mandated reporters.

State law (A.S. 47.17.020) requires that persons who are mandatory reporters who, in the performance of their occupational duties have a reasonable cause to suspect that a child has suffered farm as a result of child abuse or neglect, shall immediately report the harm  A.S. 47.17.290 defines reasonable cause to suspect as based on all facts and circumstances known to the person, that would lead a reasonable person to believe that something might be the case. It is not your responsibility to determine if the information you receive is accurate or whether the child is a reliable source. It does not matter how long ago the act happened, where it happened, or whether or not you believe it happened,

mandated reporters must report suspected abuse or neglect immediately, which means as soon as reasonably possible and no later than within 24 hours.

State law (A.S.47.17.068) and federal law (18. U.S.C. 1169) provide for criminal penalties for failing to comply with the obligation to report suspected abuse or neglect.  State law (A.S. 47.17.050) and federal law (18 U.S.C. 1169) also provide that a person who complies with their obligations and makes a report in good faith is immune from civil or criminal liability.

If you suspect a child was abused or neglected, immediately contact the office of children’s services (OCS) hotline. As of September 1st, 2020, all reports of sexual abuse should be made to both OCS and law enforcement. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you are unable to reach OCS immediately or within no later than 24 hours, you must contact the law enforcement agency responsible for your area. Again, reports of sexual abuse should be made to both OCS and law enforcement.

In an emergency situation where the child is facing immediate danger, you should call 911, and take whatever actions you can without putting yourself at risk of harm to make the child safe until authorities take over.

 

Begin by calling the Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-478-4444
or email:  [email protected]
or fax:  907-269-3939

In addition to state law, federal law(25 U.S.C. 3202, 18 U.S.C 1169) report to local law enforcement or child protection.

Mandatory reporters may also need to report to tribal authorities where such a protocol has been established between your organization and the tribe involved. You should follow your organization’s internal policies regarding contacting tribal authorities.

Follow the protocols or policies of your own organization regarding reporting child abuse or neglect internally within your organization.  whether or not this is addressed in your agency please keep in mind:

  • The information regarding suspected abuse or neglect is considered confidential information and should only be disclosed to those who are entitled to know the information in accordance with your organization’s own internal policies.
  • State law (A.S. 47.17.020 9g) and federal law (25 U.S.C. 3202, 18 U.S.C. 1169) provide that a person who makes the report to their supervisor or another person working for their organization is not relieved of the obligation to make the report to the OCS or law enforcement.
  • Follow your organization’s internal policies regarding documenting the abuse or neglect. In general, you should keep a written record of what happened for you to refer to it if you are required to testify, as your testimony may not occur until long after your initial report.

 

When making a report be prepared to give the following information:

 

Name, age, date of birth, gender, ethnic heritage/race and current address of the child, and if known child’s Alaska native or American Indian tribal affiliation

The location of everyone involved at the time the report is made

  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of parents, out-of-home parents, and the child’s siblings
  • Name, address, and phone numbers of the person suspected of maltreatment
  • The details of the primary concern
  • How often it is happening
  • How severe it is
  • Did you witness it and if so, when
  • Was there an incident or situation that led to the report
  • Any action taken by a reporter (or others)
  • Names of individuals and their contact information who might have more information
  • The names, addresses, and phone numbers of others who have knowledge of the incident or situation

Anonymous reports are also acceptable (mandatory reporters must provide their name and contact information so it can be verified that they reported)

Keep in mind:

  • You should not investigate the situation yourself.
  • Do not question or interview the child about the abuse
  • If the child made a statement do not paraphrase or change it
  • Do not bargain with the child or bribe them to disclose
  • Do not leave a report up to your supervisor to make. You are required to make a report.
  • Do not promise a child that you will keep the information a secret

 

 

 

 

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