How to Stay Safe
This part of the guide tells how you and your baby can stay safe. It explains
• care that all parents must give their children,
• laws that protect you and your baby, and
• what to do if someone hurts you or your baby.
What kind of care does my parent or guardian have to give me?
Your parent must
- give you food, clothing, shelter, and needed health care,
- supervise you, and
- give you a safe place to live,
If your parents do not do these things, they may be guilty of child abuse or neglect.
Your parent must not
- abandon you,
- kick you out of their home unless they find another safe place for you to live,
- hurt you, try to hurt you, or make you afraid of being hurt,
- make or let someone else hurt you, nor
- sexually assault you or let someone else assault you.
Note: Spanking is not always considered child abuse.
Does my parent or guardian have to help me with my baby?
Until you are 18 or emancipated, the law says your parents must take care of you and keep you safe. You must do the same for your baby!
What is child abuse?
No one has the right to hurt you or your baby. It does not matter whether that person is related to you, lives with you, or has a relationship with you.
No matter who is doing it, the law protects you and your baby from
- physical, sexual, and emotional abuse,
- domestic violence, and
These things are child abuse when they happen to a minor. The law also says that some people, like teachers, doctors, and social workers, must report suspected child abuse.
Someone who is required by law to report child abuse is called a mandated reporter. Most adults who work in schools, hospitals, and social-services agencies are mandated reporters. If a mandated reporter learns that you or someone you know is abusing a minor or being abused, they must tell the police or Child Protective Services (CPS).
The following groups are usually mandated reporters:
- teachers and some other school employees,
- case managers at programs for pregnant and parenting minors,
- some workers at camps, youth centers, and other youth organizations,
- social workers,
- probation officers,
- police officers and firefighters,
- doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, and other health care workers, and
- religious leaders.
Usually, they keep your conversations private. But mandated reporters must report any suspected child abuse to protect minors.
When is sex considered child abuse?
Mandated reporters must tell the police or CPS if they “reasonably suspect” child abuse. Child abuse can mean physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and sometimes even sex that you agreed to have.
Mandated reporters should only tell the police or CPS about your sexual relationships if they learn that
- you are 15 or younger and you say that you had sexual intercourse with someone 21 or older,
- you are 15 or younger and you say that you had any kind of sexual activity (including touching) with someone at least 10 years older than you,
- you are 13 or younger and you say you had any kind of sexual activity (including touching) with someone 14 or older, or
- you are 14 or older and you have had any kind of sexual activity (including touching) with someone younger than 14.
They are also required to report
- any sexual contact with a minor that the minor may not have agreed to, even if the partners are the same age, and
- sex if one minor partner is being hurt or taken advantage of.
Note: If you are pregnant, trying to get birth control, or if you have an STI, that alone does not mean that a child abuse report needs to be made.
Child abuse is different than statutory rape. Mandated reporters of child abuse do not have to report statutory rape, but they must report child abuse. For more information on statutory rape, see Sex.
What should I do if I suspect that what happened to my child or me is child abuse?
Talk to a counselor, doctor, or school official. They will report it to the police or to CPS.
Or you can report it to CPS. Each county has its own child-abuse hotline. Look for yours at www.childsworld.ca.gov.
A social worker will probably come to your home or your school and investigate the abuse.
Can I talk to someone about the abuse privately?
Yes. But the law says that some people, such as teachers, social workers, and doctors, MUST report any suspected child abuse even if you do not want them to.
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence means to harm you (for example, hit, kick, hurt, scare, throw things, pull hair, push, follow, harass, sexually assault, etc.) or threaten to harm you.
Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, or emotional abuse committed by someone you have a close relationship with, such as
- your parent, brother, sister, or other close relative,
- your spouse or ex-spouse,
- someone you are dating or used to date,
- someone you live with or used to live with,
- someone you were engaged to, or
- the parent of your child (even if the child does not live with you).
Elsa’s dad beat her because she got pregnant. Is that his right?
No. When she’s in a safe place, Elsa should ask for help from an adult she trusts, the police, or the Department of Social Services, or she should call 911.
Is domestic violence ever OK?
No, it is never OK. No one—not even those closest to you—has the right to hurt you, try to hurt you, or threaten to hurt you.
What is dating violence?
Dating violence is a form of domestic violence when the person you are dating hurts or threatens you. It includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, such as not letting you
- see your friends or family,
- check your cell phone,
- go out by yourself, or
- control your own life.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is someone forcing or pressuring you into sexual activity, including
- vaginal, oral, or anal sex, and
- touching breasts or genitals with hands, mouth, or any other part of the body.
It is against the law for someone to make you engage in or pressure you into sexual activity.
What is rape?
Rape is one kind of sexual assault. Rape means forcing someone to have sexual intercourse. It is rape if someone has sex with you when
- you do not want to,
- you are asleep, drunk, drugged, or in some other way not able to agree to have sex,
- the person threatens to hurt you, your child, or family if you do not have sex, or
- you are tricked into having sex.
Important! You have the right to say “No” to sex of any kind. Always. No matter what.
Is it rape if I know the person who forced me to have sex?
Yes. In fact, most victims know their rapists. It may be someone you
- had sex with in the past,
- are married to, or
- agreed to have sex with, but then changed your mind.
Even if you know the person, it is still a crime if someone forces you to have sex when you do not want to.
What should I do if I am raped?
Get help as soon as you can:
- call 911,
- go to the nearest hospital,
- call the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673, or
- go to this website to get help: www.rainn.org.
Why should I get help right away?
You will need medical care, including
- STI/STD and HIV testing and treatment,
- medical treatment, if necessary, and
- emergency contraception (EC) to prevent pregnancy.
Important! If you could have been exposed to HIV, getting treated right away can keep you from getting HIV. If you wait more than a few days, you may not be able to get this treatment.
What if I have questions and want someone to help me?
Your county may have a Rape Crisis Center. If you call, a counselor will answer all of your questions and tell you about your rights. Or you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
What if I am raped and worried about getting pregnant?
All hospitals must offer you emergency contraception (EC) to prevent pregnancy. The most common type of EC is Plan B®. It is also called the Morning After Pill.
It can be taken for up to 4 days after sex, but it works best if you take it as soon as possible. You should take it right away, even if you were using birth control. For more information on EC, see Sex.
What if someone makes me feel afraid?
Other laws can protect you. For example, it is against the law for someone to
- harass you,
- stalk you, or
- make obscene, threatening, or annoying telephone calls, text messages, or emails—it does not matter if you answer them or not.
If you are afraid, talk to someone you trust, such as a teacher or counselor. You can also talk to a police officer or go to court. Ask the court to make orders to protect you.
What can I do if my child is or I am in danger?
- Call 911 if you need help now or think you may need help soon.
- When the officer comes, you can ask for an Emergency Protective Order. This order tells the person you are afraid of to stay away from you (and your child) for five to seven days. It also gives you temporary custody of your child.
- The police may also arrest the person who hurt you.
- The police must write a report about what they see. That report can help you later.
What can I do if I am worried about being hurt?
First, make sure you are safe. You can go to a
- friend’s or relative’s home,
- shelter, or
- public place where you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233—it’s free and private, and they can help you in any language.
If you have time and it’s safe, take your keys, money, and important papers with you.
How can I find a shelter?
- call 911, if you need help now, or
- call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or
For more information, visit one of these sites:
Are the police supposed to help me if I call to report a crime or ask for help?
Yes. The police must help anyone who calls to report a crime and anyone who needs help. It does not matter how young you are or whether you are an undocumented immigrant. The police should not turn you over to Immigration for reporting a crime, and you should not have to answer questions about your immigration status.
What if the police ask me questions?
You do not have to answer their questions. But you can if you want to.
If you decide to answer the officer’s questions, tell the truth! Make sure any information you give them (names, addresses, things you saw, etc.) is correct.
Important! It can be a crime to lie to the police or to give them a false ID or false name. If you are undocumented and you are arrested, you can end up in deportation proceedings. Stay calm with the police. Do not run. Do not lie. Tell them you want a lawyer or someone with you, or ask if you can come by the station later to answer questions.
The police need help from people in the community to find and arrest criminals. You may have important information that can help them.