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Don’t Get Arrested for Child Abuse

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Children are our most valuable resource, which is why a number of laws have been enacted to protect them. Child abuse is reported once every ten seconds, with experts estimating a good number of incidents also go unreported. The estimated cost of child abuse is anticipated to be around $124 billion annually.

Both the Texas Family Code and the Texas Penal Code have statutes relating to child abuse, and provide for both civil and criminal penalties against abusers. Child abuse is considered to be “an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and development.” It specifically excludes spanking when performed as part of “reasonable discipline.” A few things that can be considered child abuse are:

  • Neglecting to provide basic necessities such as food, water, clothing, shelter and medical care
  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse, including verbal assault
  • Emotional deprivation, which involves the withholding of affection

Child abuse can also include a number of sex crimes, including sexual assault, fondling and promoting child pornography. Sexual crimes involving children are among the most common ones. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 9.2% of all abused children have been sexually assaulted. As many as 20 percent of females and 10 percent of males are sexually abused before reaching adulthood.

Who Abuses Children?

In most cases, child abusers are someone who has a close relationship with the child victim such as a parent, grandparent, guardian or caregiver. In fact, only about one in five cases involve a stranger. A report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 75% of all child sexual assault victims knew their attacker well. The Texas Attorney General’s office estimates that approximately 78% of all abusers are male. Sexual abusers are found among all age groups, with approximately 33% of them being juveniles themselves. As many as two-thirds of all perpetrators are abusers of alcohol or illegal substances.

Signs a Child Has Been Injured

The signs of child abuse vary widely; however, some of the more common ones include:

  • A high number of recurring injuries
  • Loss of appetite
  • Injuries that are unusual for the child’s age
  • An increase in absenteeism from school or day care
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Unexplained crying
  • Behavior problems
  • Slower than average cognitive development
  • Learning disabilities

In extreme cases, the death of a child may occur. In the United States, between four and seven children die every day due to child abuse or neglect, and approximately 70% of them will be under the age of four. It is estimated that child abuse is only listed as the cause of death in about half of these cases.

Penalties for People Who Hurt Children

More than three million cases of child abuse are reported annually in the United States. In Texas, child abuse reports will trigger an investigation by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). If warranted, the removal of the child will soon follow until an investigation has been completed. In 2006, 17,500 Texas children were removed from their homes. Criminal sanctions can be brought if the investigation shows there is reasonable cause to believe child abuse occurred. Some of the criminal penalties that might be associated with child abuse are:

  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Anger management counseling
  • Fines and restitution
  • House arrest
  • Parenting classes

Parents who are found guilty of child abuse are required to prove they have been rehabilitated before they are allowed to reunite with their child. Re-introducing a child to a family setting is normally done gradually over a period of time in order to ensure the transition goes smoothly and that there is as little disruption to the child’s routine as possible.

In cases of sexual abuse, the guilty party could be required to undergo sex offender registry indefinitely. There are currently more than 81,000 registered sex offenders in the state of Texas, a good number of whom committed acts against children.

Fight Child Injury Accusations

Many people automatically assume that anyone accused of child abuse is guilty; however, anyone can actually be charged with this crime. Allegations of child abuse are sometimes raised during divorce proceedings in an effort to sway the courts on custody issues. A thorough investigation into the matter will usually uncover any ulterior motives that could lead to false reporting. Authorities sometimes act overzealously as well, and fail to examine medical records that would show certain injuries were consistent with witness statements. Older children may sometimes lie about being abused in an effort to “get even” with their parents for disciplining them.

Other defenses for child abuse can be:

  • Lack of intent
  • Mental incapacity
  • Involuntary intoxication

The exact defense available will depend upon the circumstances surrounding the charges. Innocent people are accused of child abuse every day, many of whom believe they are helping their case by talking with authorities. This can be a dangerous assumption to make, which is why speaking with an attorney is strongly advised.

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