This is without a doubt, one of the most difficult areas of family law that an attorney will ever have to address. My office has handled many cases involving abuse and it’s never easy considering the potential effects that any abuse can have on a child. Children covered by this Act include any child under the age of 18 years that suffers sexual abuse; sexual assault or sexual exploitation.
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Child Abuse can occur, and when it does, parents should take immediate steps to protect their children and to minimize the effects of abuse.
The most significant form of child abuse is sexual assault. Sexual assault can be rape, statutory rape, rape in concert, incest, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts upon a child, oral copulation, sexual penetration, or child molestation.
Sexual Assault Conduct
Sexual assault which qualifies as child abuse includes the following:
- Any penetration, however slight, of the vagina or anal opening of one person by the penis of another person, whether or not there is the emission of semen;
- Any sexual contact between the genitals or anal opening of one person and the mouth or tongue of another person;
- Any intrusion by one person into the genitals or anal opening of another person, including the use of any object for this purpose, except that, it does not include acts performed for a valid medical purpose;
- The intentional touching of the genitals or intimate parts including the breasts, genital area, groin, inner thighs, and buttocks or the clothing covering them, of a child, or of the perpetrator by a child, for purposes of sexual arousal or gratification, the intentional masturbation of the perpetrator’s genitals in the presence of a child.
Conduct involving matter depicting a minor engaged in obscene acts is considered child abuse. This includes preparing, selling, or distributing obscene matter; and, employment of minor to perform obscene acts. Any person who knowingly promotes, aids, or assists, employs, uses, persuades, induces, or coerces a child, or any person responsible for a child’s welfare, who knowingly permits or encourages a child to engage in, or assist others to engage in, prostitution or a live performance involving obscene sexual conduct, or to either pose or model alone or with others for purposes of preparing a film, photograph, negative, slide, drawing, painting, or other pictorial depiction, involving obscene sexual conduct.
Child neglect can rise to the level of child abuse. Child neglect is the negligent treatment or the maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for the child’s welfare under circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child’s health or welfare. Severe neglect means the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child to protect the child from severe malnutrition or medically diagnosed nonorganic failure to thrive. Severe neglect also means those situations of neglect where any person having the care or custody of a child willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be placed in a situation such that his or her person or health is endangered, including the intentional failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care. General neglect” means the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision where no physical injury to the child has occurred.
Willful Harm, Injury, or Endangerment
Child abuse covers any situation in which any person willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon, unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be placed in a situation in which his or her person or health is endangered.
Unlawful Corporal Punishment
When any person willfully inflicts upon any child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or injury resulting in a traumatic condition, they are abusing the child.
The following individuals must report their suspicions of child abuse: school teachers and administrators, day camp or day care employees, social workers, probation or parole officers, police officers and investigators, firefighters, physician and surgeon, psychiatrist, psychologist, dentist, podiatrist, chiropractor, licensed nurse, dental hygienist, optometrist, marriage and family therapist, clinical social worker, professional clinical counselor, or any other person.
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Dealing with Child Protective Services