Child Abuse: General Description

Child abuse: Definition

Child abuse is broadly defined in many states as any type of cruelty inflicted upon a child, including mental abuse, physical harm, neglect and abuse or sexual exploitation.  In many states certain individuals and caregivers have an obligation to report a suspicion of child abuse. However, many cases of child abuse are not reported.

A child who has been the victim of abuse or neglect can suffer a number of problems, such as difficulties to relate to others, lack of trust of adults, emotional outbursts (or withdrawal), poor school performance, depression, anxiety and anger.

The elements of a charge for child abuse

As mentioned above, child abuse is a crime that includes a variety of behaviors involving the abuse is physical, emotional or sexual, or neglect of a child. The state laws on child abuse defined as any act (or omission) that:

  • produce an imminent risk or serious harm to the health and well-being of a child due to physical abuse, emotional or sexual;
  • affects a child (typically under 18 years);
  • from part of a parent or caregiver responsible for the child’s welfare.

In most states, the damage must have been inflicted by means not accidental. This includes intentional acts, reckless actions (such as allowing a sexual offender or known abuser is left alone with a child) and acts of negligence (such as leaving home alone to a child younger than certain age). Also, the “damage” inflicted on the child should not be real, but may include “threats” or “risks of imminent harm”.

In addition to state laws regarding child abuse, all states have agencies of child protective services that investigate allegations of abuse and neglect of children in a household. These agencies also place children who have been abused or neglected in safer places, either through adoption or foster care.

The defenses typically include accidents, unwarranted charges and the right of parents to impose discipline.

Laws on mandatory reporting

Each state has mandated reporting laws that require certain people to report a child abuse alleged or suspected to a central authority, for example, by using a toll-free hotline national. The allegations (which are usually anonymous) are designed to promote early intervention in cases of child abuse.

Many states require “any person” to report suspected child abuse, while others require mandatory reporting by certain professionals, such as doctors, nurses, social workers, guardians, school, nursery workers and police personnel. In some states, the lack of reporting of cases of child abuse is considered a misdemeanor punishable by fines, imprisonment or both.

Examples of warning signs of child abuse can include:

  • Physical abuse: burns, bites, bruises, and fractures unexplained or philosophy of parental discipline through the physical damage
  • Emotional abuse: behaviors extreme, physical or emotional development late, attempted suicide, and belittling by a parent or caregiver
  • Sexual abuse: difficulty walking or sitting, stories of nightmares or urination in the bed, sudden changes in appetite, denial suddenly changed in front of other people or participate in sports activities
  • Neglect: frequent absences to the school, obvious lack of medical care or dental care, body odor intense, stay at home only

See also:

  • Defenses against child abuse
  • Sanctions and penalties for child abuse
  • State laws on child abuse
  • Section Crimes against children.
  • Child abuse Center (Family Law FindLaw)