Children's Justice Center

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  • Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the signs of physical or sexual abuse?

    Signs of possible sexual abuse:

    Most victims do not display physical evidence of their abuse because of the body's ability to heal rapidly. However, any genital irritation, infections or painful bowel movements should be investigated immediately.

    Behavioral signs are more common and can include depression, anxiety, anger, loss of appetite, withdrawal from normal activities, substance abuse, self-mutilation, fear of certain places or people, bed wetting, night sweats, nightmares and thoughts of suicide.

    Also be aware of sexual acting out and language that is not age appropriate.

    Signs of physical abuse based on child's appearance:  

    • Bruises or welts on body or face (especially in various states of healing, in unusual patterns or clusters which would reflect the instrument or in multiple areas of the body);
    • Burns (cigar or cigarette burns, glove or sock-like burns on extremities, doughnut-shaped burns on buttocks, or any burn that shows the shape of the item used, such as an iron);
    • Fractures (spiral fractures of long bones without a history of twisting force as the cause, multiple fractures in various stages of healing, any fracture in a child under age 2);
    • Internal injuries; lacerations and abrasions (especially around the mouth, lip, eye, or external genitalia);
    • Human bite marks.

    What should I do if I suspect that my child has been abused?

    • Remain calm.
    • Listen attentively to what the child has to say, but do not solicit details or ask probing questions. It is very important for the professionals to talk to the child and obtain details.
    • Speak softly, using simple words and sentences. Use the child's vocabulary. Treat the child normally.
    • Tell the child that he or she did the right thing by telling.
    • Let the child know you will call someone to help.
    • Contact the Department of Human Services (DHS) 1-800-222-8000 to report the abuse.
    • Request a forensic interview at a Children's Advocacy Center nearest you. See National Children's Alliance for additional information.
    • Request your child be referred for a forensic medical examination at the Children's Justice Center at the Jackson Medical Mall. The phone number is (601) 815-0115. DHS, law enforcement or a health care provider must click on Referral Form to complete the required referral form in order to get an appointment.
    • Work closely with law enforcement and DHS to protect your child.
    • Seek counseling for yourself and your child if necessary.
    • Seek financial assistance or reimbursement for expenses if you or your child(ren) are victims of crime by filing a claim with Division of Victims Compensation, Office of the Attorney General. See Mississippi Attorney General.

    How can I report that my child has been abused?

    Call the DHS hotline at 1-800-222-8000.

    Who must report child abuse and neglect?

    M.S.A. 43-21-353 - Any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social worker, child protection specialist, child care giver, minister, law enforcement officer, public or private school employee or any other person having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child or an abused child, shall cause an oral report to be made immediately by telephone or otherwise and followed as soon thereafter as possible by a report in writing to the Department of Human Services.

    Everyone in Mississippi is expected to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the Department of Human Services. The toll free number is 1-800-222-8000.

    Who should examine my child to see if she/he has been sexually abused?

    If the abuse happened within the past 72 hours, take your child to a hospital emergency room.

    If the abuse happened more than 72 hours ago, DHS, law enforcement or health care providers may request a forensic medical examination at the Children's Justice Center by completing the online referral form.

    The Children's Justice Center is located at the Jackson Medical Mall, 350 W. Woodrow Wilson Drive, Jackson, MS 39213.

    It is recommended that all children referred to the Children's Justice Center have a forensic interview at a child advocacy center (CAC). Visit the National Children's Alliance website for phone numbers and addresses for the CACs located in Mississippi.

    Will my child have to go to court to testify?

    This is a question you will need to discuss with the prosecutor handling the matter.

    Where can I get counseling for my child?

    The Children's Advocacy Centers and the Batson CARE clinic will assist you in finding counseling for your child. 

    Are there financial resources available if my child has been abused to help pay for treatment and counseling?

    Financial resources are available if you or your child qualify as a victim of crime. Please contact the Division of Victim Compensation, Office of the Attorney General, to complete an application of eligibility.

    • Office of the Attorney General 
              Crime Prevention & Victim Services 
              Victim Services Division 
              P.O. Box 220 
              Jackson, MS 39205-0220 
              Toll-free: 1-800-829-6766 
              Phone: (601) 359-4144 
              E-mail: crimevictims@ago.state.ms.us

    Where can I learn more about abuse and neglect?

    Click on any of the links listed below:

    What are the Mississippi laws that pertain to child abuse and neglect?

    You can find the language of the statutes by clicking on the following link and following the instructions: http://www.sos.state.ms.us/ed_pubs/MSCode

    • 97-5-1 Abandonment of a child under age 6
    • 97-5-5 Enticing child for concealment, prostitution or marriage
    • 97-5-23 Touching, handling, etc. child, mentally defective or incapacitated person or physically helpless person.
    • 97-5-24 Sexual involvement of school employee with student; duty to report.
    • 97-5-27 Dissemination of sexually oriented material to persons under 18 years of age; use of computer for purpose of luring or inducing persons under 18 years of age to engage in sexual contact.
    • 97-5-9 Public display of sexually oriented materials.
    • 97-5-31 Exploitation of children, definitions
    • 97-5-33 Exploitation of children; penalties
    • 97-5-37 Exploitation of children; other remedies
    • 97-5-39 contributing to the neglect or delinquency of a child; felonious abuse and/or battery of a child.
    • 97-5-40 Condoning child abuse.
    • 97-5-41 Carnal knowledge of step or adopted child; carnal knowledge of child by cohabitating partner.
    • 97-5-42 Protection of children from parents convicted of felony child sexual abuse; creation of local registry, penalties, standards for visitation.

    Mississippi rape statutes

    97-3-65 Statutory rape; enhanced penalty for forcible sexual intercourse or statutory rape by administering certain substances.

    • The crime of statutory rape is committed when:
      • (a) Any person 17 years of age or older has sexual intercourse with a child who:
        • Is a least 14, but under 16 years of age;
        • Is 36 or more months younger than the person; and
        • Is not the person's spouse; or
      • (b) A person of any age has sexual intercourse with a child who:
        • Is under the age of 14;
        • Is 24 or more months younger than the person; and
        • Is not the person's spouse.
    • Neither the victim's consent nor the victim's lack of chastity is a defense to a charge of statutory rape.
    • Upon conviction for statutory rape, the defendant shall be sentenced as follows:
      • (a) if 18 or older, but under 21 years of age, and convicted under paragraph (1)(a) of this section, to imprisonment for not more than five years in the state penitentiary or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both;
      • (b) If 21 years of age or older and convicted under paragraph (1) (a) of this section, to imprisonment of not more than 30 years in the state penitentiary or a fine of not more than $10,000, or both, for the first offense, and not more than 40 years in the state penitentiary for each subsequent offense;
      • (c) If 18 years of age or older and convicted under paragraph (1)(b) of this section, to imprisonment for life in the state penitentiary or such lesser term of imprisonment as the court may determine, but not less than 20 years.
      • (d) If 13 years of age or older, but under 18 years of age and convicted under paragraph (1)(a) or (1)(b) of this section, such imprisonment, fine or other sentence as the court, in its discretion, may determine.
    • (4) (a) Every person who shall have forcible sexual intercourse with any person, or who shall have sexual intercourse not constituting forcible sexual intercourse or statutory rape with any person without that person's consent by administering to such a person any substance or liquid which shall produce such stupor or such imbecility of mind or weakness of body as to prevent effectual resistance, upon conviction, shall be imprisoned for life in the state penitentiary if the jury by its verdict so prescribes; and in cases where the jury fails to fix the penalty at life imprisonment, the court shall fix the penalty at imprisonment in the state penitentiary for any term as the court, in its discretion, may determine.
    • (2) A person is guilty of sexual battery if he or she engages in sexual penetration with a child under the age of 18 if the person is in a position of trust or authority over the child, including without limitation the child's teacher, counselor, physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, minister, priest, physical therapist, chiropractor, legal guardian, parent, stepparent, aunt, uncle, scout leader or coach.

    Sexual battery; definitions.
    For purposes of Sections 97-3-5 through 97-3-103 the following words shall have the ascribed herein unless the contest otherwise requires:

    •  "Sexual penetration" includes cunnilingus, fellatio, buggery or pederasty, any penetration of the genital or anal openings of another person's body by any part of a person's body, and insertion of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person's body.
    • A "mentally defective person" is one who suffers form a mental disease, defect or condition which renders that person temporarily or permanently incapable of knowing the nature and quality of his or her conduct.
    • A "mentally incapacitated person" is one rendered incapable of knowing or controlling his or her conduct, or incapable of resisting an act due to the influence of any drug, narcotic, anesthetic, or other substance administered to that person without his or her consent.
    • A "physically helpless person" is one who is unconscious or one who for any other reason is physically incapable of communicating an unwillingness to engage in an act.

    For all Mississippi statutes, go to http://www.sos.state.ms.us/ed_pubs/MSCode/

    What is the unconditional age of consent to have sexual intercourse?

    The unconditional age of consent to have sexual intercourse for two individuals who do not suffer from any mental impairment is the age of 16. If a person is over the age of 16, but under the age of 18, there are certain situations in which sexual intercourse is illegal.