Most people love their children. So why does child abuse occur between the child and his or her parents? Child abuse can result from anger management issues, mental illness, or other reasons that aren’t readily apparent. Perpetrators of child abuse can be strangers, but are most often trusted persons close to the family.
Confronting and reporting a child abuser can be difficult, especially in situations where the abuser is a trusted person. But parents, teachers, and many other professionals working with children, have a legal obligation to report child abuse if they suspect it. That is why you should seek the professional advice of an experienced family law attorney in Houston.
At Walters Gilbreath, PLLC, we are ready to stand by you and your family in this difficult situation. As attorneys with extensive experience in child abuse cases, we are sympathetic to the challenges associated with dealing with child abuse. While we are taking care of the technical legal aspects of your case, we can also provide references to skilled mental health professionals who can help you cope with the situation.
To speak with one of our skilled family law attorneys, contact Walters Gilbreath, PLLC online, or by phone at (844) 451-1220 today.
What Is Child Abuse?
The law broadly defines child abuse to include any type of cruelty to a child, including mental or psychological abuse, physical harm, neglect, and/or sexual assault or exploitation. Determining whether a parent is abusing your children can be difficult to, but it is an important step to removing your child from an abusive environment.
If you suspect that your child is the victim of abuse, check if any of the following indicators are present:
- Unexplained wounds, including burns, bruises, cuts or welts;
- Anti-social behavior;
- Sudden regression to bedwetting;
- Exhibiting an unreasonable fear of adults;
- Displays of self-destructive behavior;
- Depression and difficulty focusing;
- Unsuitable clothing for their age and/or weather;
- Age-inappropriate familiarity with terminology regarding sex or sexual acts;
- Drug-related bodily injuries;
- Child pornography involvement;
- Injuries to normally unexposed parts of the child’s body (e.g. inner thigh, chest, etc.)
If you have discovered one or more of these symptoms and you believe that someone is abusing your child, you have a duty to report any abuse you reasonably suspect has occurred.
Texas Mandatory Reporting Laws
In Texas, certain individuals are legally required to report instances of suspected child abuse. The mandatory reporting requirements are intended to prevent exposing kids to high risk situations.
The following is a list of people who have a special duty to report child sexual abuse:
- A parent, guardian, conservator, or foster parent;
- A member of the child’s family or household;
- A parent’s romantic partner or roommate;
- School personnel or student volunteers; and/or
- Daycare personnel.
Texas law requires anyone with a reasonable basis to suspect current or imminent child abuse to report it. If there is an emergency, please call 911. You should also contact the Department of Family and Protective Services on their hotline at 1-800-252-5400, or online.
Under Section 21.11 of the Texas Penal Code, certain professionals including doctors, teachers, therapists, day-care employees, and others, must make a report within 48 hours of first suspecting the child abuse. Furthermore, the duty to report child abuse is non-delegable. Delayed reporting could potentially place a child at risk for further or future injury.
Legal Repercussions for Child Abuse
Abuse can cause lasting psychological and emotional injury to the victim. Abused or neglected children can also sometimes harbor a latent psychological disturbance resulting from a physical or mental traumatic injury. Without proper treatment, the traumatized child could develop a psychological condition later in adulthood.
Punishment for failure to report abuse when you have an obligation:
- Class B misdemeanor for physical injury resulting in substantial harm to the child; mental or emotional injury to the child; failure to prevent injury to the child; harmful sexual conduct or pornography with a child; failure to prevent use of controlled a controlled substance by the child.
- Class A misdemeanor for filing a false report of abuse.
Punishment for committing child abuse:
- Felony and/or misdemeanor criminal incarceration and/or fine; and/or
- Loss of custody, visitation rights, or access to the child.
Alternative Options for Victim and Perpetrator Rehabilitation
Typically a victim of child abuse requires substantial physical or mental treatment. Treatment options include physical therapy, or psychological and/or emotional therapy. A child abuser should seek professional attention and treatment immediately. Parents should also enroll in anger management courses and seek treatment from a licensed therapist.