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Massachusetts Child Abuse Laws

Child abuse is broadly defined to cover situations when a parent or caretaker emotionally, physically, or sexually abuses, neglects, or abandons a child. Child abuse laws are intended to protect children from serious harm while still allowing parents to raise and discipline their children as they see fit. If you suspect that someone is abusing a child, you can visit FindLaw's Where to Get Help for Child Abuse section for more information on what to do.

What Constitutes Child Abuse in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, child abuse and neglect are addressed in various statutes in the state's section on "Crimes and Punishments" and "Administration of the Government" sections. The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) works to protect children from abuse and neglect in the state.

Similar to other states, Massachusetts also has mandatory reporting laws that require certain people with access to children (such as teachers and pediatricians) to report suspected cases of child abuse. It's important to note that for purposes of the mandatory reporting laws, child abuse occurs when a child under the age of 18 suffers physical or emotional injury from:

  • abuse that causes harm to the child's health or welfare, including sexual abuse;
  • neglect, including malnutrition; and/or
  • physical dependence upon addictive drug at birth.

Massachusetts Child Abuse Laws: The Basics

There's no doubt that an important step in conducting legal research is looking up and reading the law. Unfortunately, most laws are written in "legalese," which can take a while to interpret and understand. That's why an overview of the laws in plain English can be helpful in better understanding what the law says. The following table touches on the basics of child abuse laws in Massachusetts, and provides links to relevant statutes.


Massachusetts General Laws, Part IV, Title I, Chapter 265

  • Section 13B, et seq. (Indecent Assault and Battery on a Child Under Age 14)
  • Section 13H (Indecent Assault and Battery on a Child Age 14 or Older)
  • Section 13J (Assault and Battery Upon a Child)
  • Section 13L (Wanton or Reckless Behavior Creating a Risk of Serious Bodily Injury or Sexual Abuse to a Child)
  • Section 22, et seq. (Rape of a Child)
  • Section 24B (Assault of Child: Intent to Commit Rape)
Sample Penalties for Crimes Against Children

Section 13J: a person who commits an assault and battery on a child under 14 years old will be punished:

  • by up to 5 years in prison or up to two and a half years in a house of correction if the child suffers bodily injury; or
  • by up to 15 years in prison or up to two and a half years in a house of correction if the child suffers substantial bodily injury.

Section 13L: a person who wantonly or recklessly engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of sexual abuse or serious bodily injury to a child under 18 years old, or fails to take reasonable steps to lessen the risk where there is a duty act will be punished by up to two and a half years in a house of correction.

Mandatory Reporting

Certain people are mandated reporters, meaning that they are required to report suspected child abuse. Mandated reporters include (but aren't limited to): doctors, dentists, psychologists, priests, and teachers.

Suspected child abuse or neglect can be reported to the local DCF office in the city or town where the child lives or the Child-at-Risk Hotline at 800-792-5200.

Failure of a mandatory reporter to report child abuse or neglect is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

Related Statute(s)

Massachusetts General Laws, Part I, Title XVII, Chapter 119 Section 1, et seq. (Protection and Care of Children)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Massachusetts Child Abuse Laws: Related Resources

If you'd like more information and resources related to this topic, you can visit the links below.

Accused of Child Abuse in Massachusetts? Get in Touch with an Attorney

Child abuse is a serious crime, and a conviction can not only result in a criminal record but also affect your parental rights. If you have questions about Massachusetts child abuse laws, or have been arrested for child abuse, it's a good idea to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney in your area today.

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