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Child abuse can manifest in physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological cruelty, or a combination of these. States define abuse in statutes, and there may be some variation in the wording of the law from place to place, but all states prohibit cruelty to kids.
Children are especially vulnerable to abuse and less able than adults to articulate complaints, which means that adults in certain professions have an obligation to look out for and report suspected mistreatment. But we should all be aware of child abuse and do what we can to stop it. Let's consider the top five child abuse and reporting questions.
No one wants to be a busybody but you can't just let child abuse go unreported. In some states and some professions it is more than a moral imperative -- it's a legal one. Depending on your state laws and your particular profession, you may be required to report any suspected abuse and subject to punishment for failure to do so.
States all have different statutes that define abuse and outline who is under obligation to report it. Teachers very often fall into the mandatory reporting category because they have extensive daily contact with kids. In addition to the state statute that dictates who must report abuse, the time frame for reporting, and who to tell, individual school districts may also have obligatory internal reporting procedures.
Abuse can be difficult to spot but not always. If you have encounters with a child who is continually injured or marked, that may be the result of a rough and tumble approach to play or it may be a sign that someone in the child's life is being physically abusive. When you have real reason to suspect abuse, call the authorities. Many states do have toll-free hotlines that take these kinds of calls and you will not be liable if, happily, it turns out you were wrong about the abuse.
Accusing someone of child abuse is a big deal. But if you are a divorced parent and think you see signs of abuse when your child comes home from visits with their other parent, you must protect your family's most vulnerable members. Don't be rash in your accusations but do not let abuse go unremarked upon just because it's a difficult topic.
Just because an abuser doesn't leave bruising on a kid's skin does not mean that there is no serious harm resulting from their emotional cruelty. When an adult manipulates a child through intimidation or otherwise terrorizes the kid, that can qualify as a crime.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you're concerned about your obligation to report suspected child abuse or have any other legal concerns, talk to a lawyer. Many attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to talk to you.