Although all violent crimes are condemned by society, special repugnance is reserved for those who commit the crime of child abuse. This involves harm committed against a child and extends to all potential abusers, including parents, caretakers, coaches, or other individuals who are responsible for a child’s health and wellbeing. These laws exist at both the state and federal levels and include the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which is intended to help prevent child abuse in all forms.
The Many Forms of Abuse
Like domestic abuse, child abuse can take many forms. While we typically think of child abuse when we hear reports of a child who was shaken, beaten, or otherwise physically harmed, this is only the most overt form of abuse. Children may face psychological and emotional abuse in the form of comments meant to deprive a child of his or her self-worth. Sexual abuse is also prevalent between abusers and children and may result from relationships where an adult exerts significant power or control over a child. Since abuse often arises from exploitation of a power dynamic, child abusers are not always parents or other biological relatives. Instead, abuse may come from any adult who engages with a child, including a babysitter, coach, or teacher.
In addition to child abuse charges that arise from actions an adult takes against a minor, child abuse may also be the result of an adult’s failure to properly take care of a child for whom he or she is legally responsible. If a parent or guardian fails to feed a child, provide necessary medical treatments, or satisfy basic needs, this can lead to criminal charges or a case of child neglect in civil court.
Mandatory Reporting Responsibilities
Since children are often unable to speak for themselves, or lack the vocabulary and means to describe their experiences, many states have imposed mandatory reporting laws to help detect and address child abuse. Mandatory reporting typically requires that certain groups of individuals, such as teachers or day care workers, must alert police or other authorities if they suspect that a child is being abused. These suspicions may arise because a child exhibits symptoms of abuse, such as bruising, or because a child reports that he or she is being abused. Each state’s law defines what professionals are under an obligation to report suspicions of abuse and sets forth the requirements for proper reporting. In some states, it may be a crime for these professionals to fail to report child abuse that they may believe is happening.
Addressing Child Abuse Charges
Child abuse laws provide many strong protections for children, since they are vulnerable victims who often lack a voice or opportunity to confront the crimes being committed against them. However, this also means that incidents of child abuse are occasionally reported that prove false, often due to miscommunications or misunderstandings between an adult and child. In such circumstances, it is important to understand that all child abuse cases must follow a detailed procedural course, including a thorough investigation. All parties involved will be given the opportunity to explain their circumstances and clear up any existing confusion. A lawyer specializing in child abuse cases will often be the best source of information for navigating this emotional process.