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Child Abuse Law

Child abuse refers to the physical, mental, and sexual abuse or exploitation of the child, and the parents' or guardians' neglect of the child. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act specifically defines child abuse and neglect, and the accompanying penalties for specific violations. A "child" is legally defined as any person younger than 18 years old or who is not an emancipated minor. While federal legislation sets minimum standards for states that accept federal funding, each state provides its own definitions of maltreatment within civil and criminal statutes.

Physical abuse is easily identified in child abuse cases. The more difficult difficult forms of child abuse come in the form of mental and sexual abuse. Federal legislation defines "mental injury" to include harm inflicted to a child's psychological or intellectual functioning, demonstrated by a change in the child's behavior, emotional response or cognition. Determination of mental child abuse needs the assessment of psychiatrist as these, excluding in cases of outward aggressive behavior, are not usually outwardly manifested. This form of child abuse needs the assessment of psychiatrists. Sexual abuse is the most difficult form of abuse to prove because a child typically shies away from disclosing this kind of abuse for fear of embarrassment or retaliation by the parent. Sexual abuse includes the coercion of a child to engage in sexually explicit conduct, rape, molestation, prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. Sexual abuse also includes incest with children. Sexual abuse further include sexual intercourse, sexual contact, and other acts of lasciviousness towards the child.

Neglect, under federal legislation, is a parent or a guardian's failure to provide the basic necessities of a child, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and education. Neglect should also result to the child being in seriously endangered. The federal and state government have in place programs assisting parents in taking care of children as poverty as the most common defense parents have for neglecting children.

One of the issues in relation to child abuse is the often fine line between discipline and abuse. Federal legislation provides that child abuse excludes discipline provided that the discipline is reasonable, moderate in degree, and does not constitute cruelty. Federal legislation enumerates the differences between discipline and child abuse. Nevertheless, as persons who are responsible for the upbringing of the child, parents or caretakers, at spur of the moments, often employ corporal punishment to teach the child a lesson for any wrongdoing. Corporal punishment is typically frowned upon, regardless of the cultural context of such, and is the subject of many child abuse cases throughout the country. The federal government encourages positive discipline rather than corporal punishment.

Federal and state governments are in concerted efforts in implementing anti-child abuse laws by making visible campaigns against such acts. Anyone who has knowledge of any form of abuse may report to the local police department. While in joint efforts aimed to put a stop to abusive acts, federal and state child abuse laws have specific jurisdictions and may not interfere with each other. When facing a charge of child abuse, the defendant must hire an expert child abuse law attorney to defend himself as an ordinary person may not be able to discern which laws to use to protect him. Both federal and state governments are zealous in their anti-child abuse programs, and courts are not lenient on child abusers.

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