What is child abuse?
It is repeated mistreatment or neglect of a child by parent(s) or other guardian resulting in injury or harm. Under California Law, child abuse is a crime. Children need protection because they are vulnerable and often unable to speak for themselves. The California Child Abuse Reporting Law, along with other state laws, provides the legal basis for action to protect children and allow intervention by public agencies if a child is maltreated.
Child abuse and neglect are defined by Federal and State laws 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."
Types of Child Abuse
The definitions of specific types of abuse are derived from the Welfare and Institutions Code and Penal Code.
Physical abuse means the child has suffered, or there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious physical harm inflicted non-accidentally upon the child by the child's parent or guardian. This can also include the fact the child's parent or guardian caused the death of another child through abuse or neglect. Additionally, it can include a child who has been subjected to an act, or acts, of cruelty by the parent or guardian or member of his or her household, or the parent or guardian has failed to adequately protect the child from an act or acts of cruelty when the parent or guardian knew, or reasonably should have known that the child was in danger of being subjected to an act, or acts, of cruelty.
Severe Physical Abuse
Severe physical abuse means any single act of abuse that causes physical trauma of sufficient severity that, if left untreated, would cause permanent physical disfigurement, permanent physical disability, or death. It also includes any single act of sexual abuse that causes significant bleeding, deep bruising, or significant external or internal swelling. Severe physical abuse also includes more than one act of physical abuse, each of which causes bleeding, deep bruising, significant external or internal swelling, bone fracture or unconsciousness. It also includes the willful, prolonged failure to provide adequate food.
Neglect means the child has suffered, or there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious physical harm or illness as a result of the failure or inability of the parent or guardian to adequately supervise or protect the child, the willful or negligent failure of the parent or guardian to adequately supervise or protect the child from the conduct of the custodian with whom the child has been left, the willful or negligent failure of the parent or guardian to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical treatment and the inability of the parent or guardian to provide regular care for the child due to the parent's or guardian's mental illness, developmental disability, or substance abuse. This also includes the fact the child's sibling has been abused or neglected, and there is a substantial risk that the child will be abused or neglected.
Sexual abuse means sexual assault including rape, incest, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts upon a child or child molestation. Sexual exploitation refers to depicting a minor engaged in obscene acts, as well as preparing, selling, or distributing obscene matter that depicts minors or employing minors to perform obscene acts. It also refers to knowingly permitting or encouraging a child to engage in, or assisting others to engage in, prostitution or a live performance involving obscene sexual conduct, or to either pose or model alone or with others for the purposes of preparing a film, photograph, negative, slide, drawing, painting, or other pictorial depiction involving obscene sexual content. Additionally, it can include depicting a child in, or knowingly developing, duplicating, printing, or exchanging any film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide in which a child is engaged in an act of obscene sexual conduct. A child could be made a dependent if he or she were sexually abused, or there is a substantial risk that the child would be sexually abused by his or her parent, guardian, or a household member, or the parent or guardian failed to adequately protect the child from sexual abuse when the parent or guardian knew or reasonably should have known that the child was in danger of sexual abuse.
Emotional abuse is the suffering of serious emotional damage, or the substantial risk of suffering serious emotional damage, as evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or aggressive behavior toward self or others, as a result of the conduct of the parent or guardian.
Abandonment is when the child has been left without any provision for support, physical custody of the child has been voluntarily surrendered, the child's parent has been incarcerated or institutionalized and cannot arrange for the care of the child, a relative or other adult custodian with whom the child resides or has been left is unwilling or unable to provide care or support for the child, the whereabouts of the parents are unknown, and reasonable efforts to locate the parents have been unsuccessful.
Why should I report child abuse?
All children have the right to grow up in a safe environment. Child abuse, in all its forms, has a more lasting and negative effect on children, families and the whole community than most people realize. At its worst, its destructive impact haunts its victim throughout life and prevents the child from becoming a productive adult. Frequently, parents who were mistreated as children will mistreat their own children.
The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect reports that more than 2,000 children die each year due to abuse or neglect. Reporting child abuse is a first step in stopping this devastating cycle. People who hurt children usually need help to change their behavior. Many, perhaps most, only get that help after someone else calls attention to the fact that they need it by reporting their abuse of a child.