Child Abuse Civil Cases: What You Need To Know

Criminal acts against children are an epidemic and a scourge on our society that has led to the emotional, sexual and physical injury of countless innocent children. If you or a loved one are being abused or were abused as a child (under the age of 18) then you may be entitled to money damages regardless of whether the perpetrator was charged or convicted of a criminal act. As a former special victims prosecutor and litigator, Joe Lesniak can provide you with sound advice on how to proceed either criminally and/or civilly to ensure your rights are protected and try to mitigate the harm that this type of crime causes on the victim and their friends and family. Victims of child abuse may require years of expensive therapy and treatment that could bring financial ruin to a family that is already trying to cope with the other negative ramifications of this type of crime brings. Do not allow this to happen and call for a free consultation.

Types Of Abuse

Neglect: The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), USA, defines child 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.”

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), a large UK organization, defines child neglect as: “The persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development.” The NSPCC goes on to explain that neglect can occur while the baby is still inside his/her mother – during pregnancy, as may be the case with maternal substance abuse.

After the child is born, a parent or caregiver may be committing child neglect if they fail to:

  • Feed the child properly
  • Clothe the child properly
  • Shelter the child adequately, including abandonment or excluding the child from home
  • Protect the child from emotional danger or harm
  • Protect the child from physical danger of harm
  • Make sure the child has access to medical treatment or care

If a parent or caregiver does not respond to or neglects a child’s basic emotional needs, they could be guilty of child neglect.

Physical: Nonaccidental trauma or physical injury caused by punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming a child, physical abuse is the most visible form of child maltreatment. Many times, physical abuse results from inappropriate or excessive physical discipline. A parent or caretaker in anger may be unaware of the magnitude of force with which he or she strikes the child.

Other factors that can contribute to child abuse include parents’ immaturity, lack of parenting skills, poor childhood experiences and social isolation, as well as frequent crisis situations, drug or alcohol problems and domestic violence.

What should you look for? While injuries can occur accidentally when a child is at play, physical abuse should be suspected if the explanations do not fit the injury or if a pattern of frequency is apparent. The presence of many injuries in various stages of healing makes it obvious that the injuries did not all occur as a result of one accident.

Physical indicators of abuse include bruises; lacerations; swollen areas; and marks on the child’s face, head, back, chest, genital area, buttocks or thighs. Wounds like human bite marks, cigarette burns, broken bones, puncture marks or missing hair may indicate abuse.

A child’s behavior might also signal that something is wrong. Victims of physical abuse may display withdrawn or aggressive behavioral extremes, complain of soreness or uncomfortable movement, wear clothing that is inappropriate for the weather, express discomfort with physical contact or become chronic runaways.

Emotional/Psychological: a pattern of intentional verbal or behavioral actions or lack of actions that convey to a child the message that he or she is worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value to meet someone else’s needs. Withholding emotional support, isolation, or terrorizing a child are forms of psychological abuse. Domestic violence that is witnessed by a child is also considered a form of psychological abuse.

Sexual: Sexual abuse is defined as any act that forces or entices a child or young person to participate in sexual activities, regardless of whether the child is aware of what is going on. The definition does not necessarily have to include violence.

Sexual abuse activities may include assault by penetration, such as rape or oral sex, and non-penetrative sexual activities, such as touching outside of clothing, rubbing, kissing and masturbating.

There are some noncontact activities which are also classed as sexual abuse. These include looking at others performing sexual acts, sexual pictures, encouraging the child to behave sexually inappropriately, or grooming. Grooming refers to preparing a child for abuse.

Acts of sexual abuse may be committed by adult males, adult females and other children.

Bullying: A form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions. Cyberbullying is the use of the internet and related technologies to harm other people, in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. As it has become more common in society, particularly among young people, legislation and awareness campaigns have arisen to combat it.

The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.

Accused Of Child Abuse?

In the post-Sandusky era reports of child abuse are up over 100%. Although some of these reports uncover significant abuse situations there is always that chance that an innocent person is accused and through a “biased” investigation is charged with child abuse. As a former special victims prosecutor, I had several cases come across my desk that I declined to prosecute for numerous reasons: lack of significant evidence to substantiate or corroborate the act; a contentious divorce or custody situation and/or an overly zealous investigation that has led to the tainting of a child. If you feel you have been wrongly accused of child abuse then call immediately. Do not wait until you are charged, arrested or worse in jail.