"For crimes of all kinds that are committed against children," says Jay Howell, executive director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, "the site of such assaults is in the home more than anywhere else. The statistics bear this out. Unfortunately, the most dangerous place for a child is in his own home."

The number of men committing serious child abuse is on the rise, according to a study published in this month's Pediatrics journal. One explanation given is that more men are involved in regular daily care of their children.

Assistance to men or women who abuse children or who feel they may be on the verge of abusing their children is available from FACT (Families and Children in Trouble), the local chapter of the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse. Their 24-hour hotline, (202) 628-FACT (628-3228), offers information and referrals to residents in all local jurisdictions.

Other child protective services:

*District of Columbia -- (202) 727-0995, 24 hours a day.

*Maryland -- Montgomery County (301) 468-4417, 24 hours a day; Montgomery County Hotline (a voluntary organization), (301) 949-6603; Prince George's County, 422-0400 during business hours, 699-8605 in emergencies only -- days, evenings and weekends.

*Virginia -- Statewide hotline, (800) 552-7096, 24 hours a day; Northern Virginia Hotline (a voluntary organization), (703) 527-4077; Alexandria (703) 838-0800, during business hours; Arlington County, (703) 558-2885, during business hours; Fairfax County (703) 691-2251, during business hours.