What Is Child Abuse and Neglect?
Child abuse and neglect is a growing epidemic in our society. In the United States alone, there are over 6 million reported cases of child abuse and neglect annually. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse and neglect as:
“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
Child abuse can occur at any socioeconomic level. It is found across the borders of all ethnic, cultural, and religious communities in many forms.
78% of all cases of child maltreatment are due to neglect, while 26% of child maltreatment cases are defined as physical or sexual abuse.
In most cases of reported maltreatment of children, a child suffers more than one type of abuse. Abuse can come in the following forms:
- Physical: includes any action that inflicts pain
- Neglect: absence of parental care
- Emotional/Mental: behaviors towards children that belittle or dehumanize them causing mental harm
- Sexual: actions towards a child of a sexual nature; usually meant to please the offender
The earlier a person recognizes that a child is being abused or neglected, the greater chance of stopping it and helping the child to begin the healing process. If you believe your child has suffered any type of abuse, contact the authorities immediately to begin the investigation process. Every parent wants what is best for their child, and getting help is the first step in protecting your child from further abuse and the scars it leaves behind.
Signs of Abuse:
- Physical Abuse Signs: Unexplained injuries, the child shies away from contact with adults, or wearing excessive clothes to cover up their body.
- Sexual Abuse Signs: In cases where the child is not old enough to verbalize what is happening to them, the child may have a fear of removing clothing or being in close contact with others.
- Emotional Abuse or Neglect Signs: A child is ignored or rejected, constantly criticized, yelled at and threatened. Emotional neglect occurs when a parent isolates the child or fails to provide the affection and support the child needs. The child becomes afraid of new situations, the child begins to overact to their own mistakes, and the child’s social development may begin to slow.
- Education Neglect Signs: A parent or guardian does not bring the child to school, or allows them to miss school frequently, or they constantly cause the child to show up late to school.
- Medical Neglect Signs: A parent fails to provide necessary medical care for the child, not taking them to a doctor when they are sick and allowing injuries to go untreated, or failing to administer necessary prescribed medication.
It is very difficult to determine if your child has been abused or neglected. If parents are going through a divorce, symptoms of abuse are sometimes mistaken as the child “acting out” because they are upset about the divorce. When talking to a child about potential abuse or neglect, it is important for a parent to listen to their child without pushing too hard to get information from the child. Parents should remain positive and reassure the child everything will be okay and encourage them to tell the truth. The child should know that their parents only want to help them and protect them. A trained professional will also be able help to determine if the child is actually being abused or neglected.
Child Abuse and Family Law
In most cases of abuse allegations, the parents are not living together. A parent may have suspicions that their child is being abused at the home of the other parent, or the child may report abuse to one parent that takes place at the home of the other. This does not always mean that your child’s other parent is the abuser. Perhaps there is someone else in the home that this child has been exposed to that is causing harm to your child. It could be a relative, baby-sitter, or the other’s parents significant other.
It is very important that if you share placement of your child with his or her other parent, you make yourself aware of who else may be living in your child’s home, and who else your child may be exposed to.
If you believe that your child is being abused, contact a lawyer to help you protect your child. There are steps that can be taken to have a child immediately removed from a home where there is suspicion of abuse or neglect, such as filing emergency motions to change placement, or a child abuse restraining order. Whatever the case, please contact authorities right away and if your child has been abused, take immediate steps to get them the help they need. It has been documented that 30% of abused or neglected children will abuse their own children. Let’s stop the abuse cycle here.
As a parent, you are your child’s voice, and that voice should be heard.
At John T. Fields & Associates, we have over 25 years of experience dealing with all areas of family law, and we have been able to assist many families where child abuse was present. Contact our office immediately if you believe your child may be in danger.