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Each year, there are approximately 3 million instances of child abuse. Most of the cases reported to “Child Protective Services” concern neglect, accompanied by physical and sexual abuse. A majority of child abuse cases take place within a family setting. The risk of child abuse is high where mentally ill parents are concerned. Child mistreatment and neglect is common in poor families and among teenage parents or parents who are alcohol or drug addicts. Read on for answers on the frequently asked questions regarding child abuse.
What Is Child Abuse?
Child abuse refers to any kind of cruelty that is inflicted on a child, including physical harm, sexual abuse, neglect, and mental abuse. Some of the crimes charged in cases of child abuse include battery and assault.
According to state laws child abuse is an act or failure to act that:
Results in serious harm or the imminent risk to a child’s welfare and health due to sexual, emotional, or physical abuse
· Affects a child who is below 18 years
· Is performed by a caregiver or parent who is charged with attending to a child’s welfare
In many states, the harm has to be inflicted through non-accidental means. Child abuse entails careless intentional acts like permitting a sexual offender or abuser to be left alone with a child. It also includes negligent acts like leaving a child home alone at a certain tender age. It could also include risks or threats of imminent harm.
Mandatory Reporting Laws
In every state there are mandatory laws that assign certain people the responsibility of reporting suspected or apparent child abuse to the relevant authorities through a toll-free hotline or some other means. These child abuse reports are usually anonymous and help the authorities to stop child abuse before it gets worse.
In many states, anyone can report an incident of child abuse. However, in some states, professionals like social workers, nurses, doctors, day care workers, and school officials are charged with the responsibility of reporting abuse. In some states, a person may be found guilty of a misdemeanor for failing to alert the authorities about a case of child abuse.
Some of the tell-tale signs of child abuse include:
· Physical abuse- unexplained bruises, bites, burns, or broken bones
· Sexual abuse-bed wetting, sudden change in behavior, nightmares, or difficulty sitting or walking
· Emotional abuse-attempted suicide, delayed emotional or physical development, belittling by a caregiver or parent
· Neglect- visible lack of dental or medical care, strong body odor, frequent absenteeism at school, or staying home alone
Penalties and Sentencing for Child Abuse
A person who is accused of child abuse is likely to face several possible penalties and sentencing based on a few factors including:
· The child’s age
· Whether the child sustained mental or physical injuries
· Whether the abuse involved sexual acts
· The offender’s criminal history
· The state where the offense was committed
In a majority of the states, child abuse is either charged as a felony or misdemeanor considering the circumstances surrounding the offense. The serious cases can lead to lifetime sentences while the minor cases are gross misdemeanors that lead to no prison time. Punishment is usually severe for offenders who have prior records of child abuse. In most cases, sentencing includes probation or an imprisonment of five years. Sentencing leads to a longer jail term for serious cases.
Summing It Up
Child abuse is a serious offense that should be reported as soon as it is detected. The consequences of child abuse can affect the emotional and psychological development of a child. If you suspect or know that a child is being abused, you should consult a child abuse lawyer to take action against the abuser.