Child abuse is a broad term that includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. While it varies between the states, a child is usually considered to be someone under 16 or 18 years old. Each state has their own laws defining child abuse.

Child Abuse - Physical Abuse

Physical abuse can include the following:

  • Hitting a child with a belt, whip or paddle other instrument;
  • Pinching a child which leaves a mark;
  • Pushing a child into walls;
  • Knocking a child down;
  • Corporal injuries; and/or
  • Shaking a child under 4 vigorously enough to cause shaken baby syndrome.

Spanking is not generally considered abuse in the United States, as long as it is age appropriate and does not cause the child serious injury. However, if the discipline is extreme and forceful enough to cause the child injury, then it will be considered physical abuse.

Child Abuse - Sexual Abuse

Children cannot consent to sexual activity. Sexual abuse of a child does not always include physical action. Some examples of sexual abuse to a child are:

  • Sexual acts with a child;
  • Exposing oneself to a child;
  • Exploitation of a child; and/or
  • Any type of sexual behavior that harms a child physically, emotionally or mentally.

Child Abuse - Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can include the following:

  • Constant criticizing and teasing;
  • Rejection and isolation;
  • Corruption of the child; and/or
  • Excessive, aggressive, or unreasonable demands that place expectations on the child beyond their capacity.

If the pattern of negative behavior affects a child's emotional development and sense of self-worth, emotional abuse has occurred.

Child Abuse - Neglect

Neglect is when a parent, guardian or caregiver fails to provide for a child’s basic needs. Some examples are:

  • Physical: The failure to provide necessary food and shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision;
  • Medical: The failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment;
  • Educational: The failure to provide education or attend to special education needs; and
  • Emotional: The failure tend to a child's emotional needs, mental health or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs.

Have You been Accused of Child Abuse?

A person who commits child abuse can be prosecuted criminally or face civil penalties.

Criminal Prosecution

If you are accused of child abuse, you may be arrested and convicted of a crime. The consequences you may face depend on the severity of the abuse, any prior similar convictions, whether you are currently on probation or parole, and the number of instances of child abuse.

If you are convicted of child abuse, you could face any of the following:

  • Imprisonment;
  • Probation or parole;
  • Loss of custody or visitation with your children;
  • A permanent criminal record; and/or
  • Required anger management and/or parenting classes.

Civil Penalties

A victim of child abuse may also sue you in a private civil lawsuit, where you may liable to pay the victim money. This is based upon the victim’s pain, suffering and medical expenses resulting from the abuse. Any prior similar convictions will also be considered.

If you are accused of child abuse, you should speak to a lawyer immediately to learn more about your rights and to determine your next steps.

Do You Know a Child Who is Being Abused?

If you believe that a child is being abused, then the first step is to call the police. The police will investigate, collect evidence, and send your case to the District Attorney’s office to prosecute the offender if there is sufficient evidence against them. 

If you have been accused of child abuse but none of your actions fall under the above requirements for child abuse, then you should contact a local criminal lawyer today!