Child abuse & neglect
Child abuse is any act that puts a child’s health in serious danger. The abusive act can be physical, mental, or sexual. Physical abuse may cause the child bruises or broken bones. Harmful spoken words can be mental abuse. Sexual abuse includes rape or incest.
Failure to act can also be abuse. This is called neglect. A child who is neglected is one whose basic needs have not been met. Basic needs include things like food and clothing.
Sometimes, the people who abuse children are the ones that seem most trustworthy. They may be parents, guardians, caregivers, other family members, teachers, coaches, doctors, or pastors.
Signs of child abuse and neglect
Some signs of child abuse include:
- Repeat injuries, burns, or welts on the child
- Unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
- Unmet medical needs
- Repeat bad behavior that is extreme, such as fighting, lying, or stealing and
- Any big change in a child’s behavior.
If you suspect a child is being abused:
- Call the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) child abuse 24-hour hotline at (800)-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873 or TTY 1-800-358-5117). DCFS is not allowed to share your name; or
- Call 911 if you believe the child is in danger or harm.
Child abuse resources
- DCFS Investigations
- DCFS: What happens after an investigation?
- DCFS cases and child protection services
- Protecting children from an abuser
- Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
- Prevent Child Abuse Illinois
- Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center
- National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence
As seniors age, some experience a decline in mind and body. They become dependent on others to help and sometimes take over financial matters. Caregivers and others (lawyers, bankers, relatives, friends, etc.) may need to conduct financial business or handle funds to provide care for the senior.
Unfortunately, sometimes a caregiver, relative, helpful neighbor or repairman can become too familiar with a senior’s finances. They begin to take larger and larger amounts of money as the senior becomes more frail. This is especially true for seniors who suffer from mental illness like dementia and those who have suffered a stroke.
Signs of financial exploitation
- A caregiver seems overly interested in the victim’s financial situation, or a caregiver has no means of support;
- A caregiver or family member with access to the senior’s money appears to use the funds for themself rather than for the senior, resulting in things like numerous unpaid bills or overdue rent;
- A senior doesn’t have adequate food, clothing or personal care items when there appears to be enough money to provide them;
- A senior is greatly overcharged for services such as auto repairs or home maintenance;
- A senior doesn’t receive services they have already paid;
- A senior loans large sums with no arrangement for repayment;
- Relatives or new acquaintances have moved in with a senior;
- Items continue to be missing on a regular basis from a senior’s home;
- Suspicious activity on a senior’s credit card accounts;
- Bank statements and cancelled checks are no longer going to a senior’s home. Mail has been re-directed to a different address;
- A senior is not aware of or does not understand recently completed financial transactions;
- Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents belonging to a senior;
- Unexpectedly low credit scores;
- Contact from debt collectors regarding unknown debts; and
- Receiving notice that a payment has been declined.
Financial exploitation resources
- What is abuse?
- Reporting abuse
- After a report is made
- Preventing financial exploitation
- Looking out for fraud
- Advocating for older citizens
- Giving someone power of attorney for property
- Creating a living will
- Ending a power of attorney
- Identity theft
- Recent scam alerts
- Financial protection for older adults and their families
A hate crime is when someone is the target of a crime because of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, culture, religion, or disability. Call 911 or your local police station if you are the victim of a hate crime. The local police must report the hate crime to the Illinois State Police.
The Chicago Police Department’s Civil Rights Unit looks into reports of hate crime in Chicago. The Chicago Commission on Human Relations also provides resources to victims of hate crime in Chicago and can be reached at (312)-744-4874.
Call the Cook County Sheriff’s Office hotline to report the hate crime at (773)-674-HELP (4357) if you live in Cook County. Those who call this hotline will receive a direct response from the sheriff’s office. They will help connect callers to sheriff’s detectives and other groups such as legal aid.
Anyone in Illinois can call the Illinois Attorney General Hate Crime Report/Civil Rights hotline for help at (877)-581-3692.
Examples of hate crimes
Hate crimes may involve:
- Damage to property
Identity theft is when someone gets your information and uses it without your permission. This often happens when someone’s wallet that includes a driver’s license, credit card, or insurance information is lost or stolen. It can also happen if someone takes your social security number. Identity theft is a crime that can cause issues with your money, credit, and reputation. These issues are not quick fixes. You need time and money to resolve all the problems caused by identity theft. If you think you are a victim of identity theft, take action quickly to stop further damage by the identity thief.
Signs of identify theft
Signs of identity theft include unknown:
- Charges on a bank statement
- Criminal charges on a record
- Bills from a hospital or doctor
- Calls from debt collectors
- Bank or credit card accounts opened
Actions to take if you think you are a victim of identity theft:
- Get your free credit report. You have a right to see your credit report from three different agencies (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) every 12 months;
- Contact your credit card companies and banks to check for fraud and close accounts if needed;
- Call the Office of Illinois Attorney General Identity Theft Hotline;
- Report identity theft to and get a personal recovery plan from the official government identity theft website; and
- File a police report.
Illinois law says that all workers must be paid their agreed wages. It does not matter if you are paid by hour, salary, piece, or other method. If you work, then you should be paid. However, your agreed upon rate should never fall below minimum wage for every hour worked.
Wage theft examples
- You are paid less than $10.50 per hour in Chicago, or $8.25 outside of Chicago;
- You are not paid for travel time after work has started;
- Your employer rounds down your hours when calculating work hours;
- Long delays in paying wages;
- You have separated from your current employment, but you have not received your final paycheck;
- You work more than 40 hours per week and do not receive overtime pay (1.5 times regular pay);
- You work varying hours of overtime each week, but you are paid a fixed salary regardless of how many hours you work even though you are not an exempt employee;
- You are not given pay stubs stating your hours and wages;
- You are an hourly employee who works off the clock;
- You’ve had money deducted from your paycheck, such as work equipment costs or repair costs;
- You are not paid for short breaks of 15 minutes or less;
- You work eight or more hours without a meal break; and
- You are a tipped employee and your employer counts your tips toward your hourly minimum wage requirement.
Stalking is any activity that makes someone fear for their safety or become distressed. It must happen more than once to be stalking.
A Stalking No Contact Order makes it illegal for a stalker to contact you without your permission. Effective January 1, 2018, it is also illegal for a stalker to use another person to contact you without the victim's permission.
You can request a Stalking No Contact Order if you are a victim of stalking or you are requesting on the behalf of a child or disabled or elderly adult who is the victim of stalking.
In a Stalking No Contact Order, a judge orders your stalker to not do any of the following:
- Follow or monitor you
- Threaten you
- Talk or write to you, or talk and write to other people about you (by mail, phone, text, e-mail or social media)
- Interfere with or damage your property
- Interfere with your pet
- Come near you in public or on private property
- Show up at your work, home, school or daycare
- Possess a Firearm Owner's' Identification (FOID) card, or possess or buy firearms
If you are a victim of rape, sexual assault, or sexual abuse then you should seek a Sexual Assault Civil No Contact Order.
Signs of stalking
Some signs that you are being stalked are:
- Someone keeps contacting you without your consent
- Someone keeps following you
- Someone keeps approaching or confronting you
- Someone goes to your workplace, residence, or property
- Someone delivers things to you or to your property
- Someone repeatedly calls you (or your home or job) by telephone or contacts you by mail, e-mail, or social media
- Someone damages your property or harms your pet
You can also find agencies that specialize in helping stalking victims by visiting the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
You can learn how to protect your digital devices like computers and cell phones with the Technology Safety & Privacy Toolkit from the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Some people use their power, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity, to control or harm others. Bullying behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
Bullying is any action that:
- Causes you to fear harm to themselves or their belongings
- Harms your physical or mental health
- Affects your grades or class participation
- Affects your desire or ability to take part in school or social activities
It is against the law to bully anyone based on:
- National origin
- Marital status
- Physical or mental disability
- Military status
- Unfavorable discharge from military service
- Sexual orientation
- Gender-related identity or expression
- Association with a person or group with one or more of the characteristics mentioned
- Any other distinguishing characteristic
Bullying someone based on any of those characteristics may also count as discrimination that violates other laws as well.
Signs of bullying
- Physical violence
- Sexual harassment or sexual violence
- Public humiliation
- Destruction of property
- Punishment for asserting or alleging an act of bullying
Where, when, and how these actions happen determine if they are considered bullying.
Bullying on the internet
Bullying on the internet is called 'cyberbullying'. It is against the law. A cyberbully uses technology or electronic communication to bully someone else. Cyberbullying includes:
- Directly communicating with you through instant messages or email
- Impersonating you online
- Posting information online about you that anyone can see
Bullying at school
Schools must take action if you are bullied:
- During any school program or activity
- At school, on school property or on the school bus
- While waiting for the school bus
- On any school equipment or network
- On any computer or electronic device if the bullying causes a substantial disruption at school (under certain circumstances)
If you or your child is being bullied at school, report it to the school. If the school is not taking action to stop it, you can file a complaint. You can find your school’s bullying prevention policy in the Board Policy Manual, which is often online, or ask your school’s front office staff. You may contact Prevent School Violence Illinois’s website or call at (630) 884-8278.
You can also file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the US Department of Education. Before filling out the complaint form, you should read the information on how OCR handles bullying complaints. You may also contact OCR at (800) 421‐3481.
You have experienced discrimination if you were treated unfairly because someone else believes you are a member of a certain group or class of people. Discrimination is illegal when it happens because of the following reasons:
- Marital and family status
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Source of income in housing
You can be discriminated against in different ways. You are a victim of housing discrimination if a landlord makes it difficult or impossible for you to rent an apartment.
If you are a person with a disability you can be discriminated against when landlords and businesses fail to install reasonable accommodations for you.
You can be discriminated against if you are an employee and your employer treats you differently than your coworkers because you belong to a protected class. The treatment must be bad enough that it affects your job.
Employers with 15 or more employees may not ask you about your criminal history on a job application. Once they decide you are qualified and invited you for an interview, they can ask you about your criminal history. If there is no interview, they can ask you about your criminal history after giving you a conditional offer of employment.
Examples of discrimination
Discrimination can happen in some of the following ways:
- A landlord refuses to rent to you or makes it harder to get an apartment
- A landlord denies you a reasonable accommodation in your residence
- A homeowner refuses to sell you their home
- An employer or manager refuses to hire you
- Your employer doesn’t pay you the same as other employees in your position
- Your employer fails to give you a promotion or fires you
- A bank or creditor rejects your loan or credit application
- A bank or creditor gives you a loan or credit with different terms than other people
- A business that serves the public doesn’t provide accommodations for your disability
- A school fails to help if someone is harassing you at school
- Your employer fails to help if your boss or co-worker is harassing you
If you were the victim of discrimination, the following agencies can help you file a claim:
- Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR)
- City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
There may be rules about when you can file your claim, so it is a good idea to start the process as quickly as possible.