Child Abuse and Maltreatment

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"Nearly five children die every day in America from abuse and neglect," according to Every Child Matters Education Fund (as cited by The National Children's Alliance, 2009). This goes to show that child abuse is a major issue in today’s modern society. In fact, statistics show that there are over 3 million reports of child abuse each year in the United States alone (“National Child Abuse Statistics,” n.d.). While the definition of child abuse and neglect changes from state to state, it is defined by The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) as, at minimum: 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. (“What is Child Abuse and Neglect?” 2008) Most states have also recognized four major types of abuse in which children may experience. It is very common for serious problems to arise from child maltreatment, and tend to cause long-term traumatization. When it comes to dealing with children in court who have been exposed to abuse, special precautions and procedures must be taken into account. All of these topics help to lend some insight as to how serious the issue of child abuse truly is in today’s society. To begin with, the four major types of child maltreatment are: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Neglect occurs when a parent, guardian, or other caregiver fails to provide for the basic needs of their child such as feeding them, offering shelter, getting them medical attention, providing the child with an education, or ignoring the child’s emotional needs. Physical abuse takes place when someone such as a parent, guardian, or other caretaker intentionally causes physical harm to a child in various ways such as punching, kicking, biting, beating, stabbing, shaking, throwing, hitting, or choking. Sexual abuse includes different activities such as rape, sodomy, incest, indecent exposure, exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials, or fondling a child’s genitals (“What is Child Abuse and Neglect?” 2008). While boys and girls do face fairly equal amounts of physical abuse and neglect, it is four times more likely for a girl to experience sexual abuse than a boy (Bartol & Bartol, 2012, p. 379). According to CAPTA, sexual abuse is defined as: the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children or incest with children. (“What is Child Abuse and Neglect?” 2008) Lastly, emotional abuse is described as acts or behaviors which negatively affect a child’s sense of self-esteem or self-development. This can be caused from constant criticism, rejecting the child, threatening them, or withholding love, guidance, and emotional support. However, it is very difficult to prove that a child has been emotionally abused without evidence of harm or mental injury. (“What is Child Abuse and Neglect?” 2008). Out of all these different types of maltreatment, neglect is by far the most common. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010), “over two-thirds (70%) of maltreatment victims experience neglect. About 15% are physically abused, and 9% are sexually abused. Only 7% reportedly are emotionally abused, a figure that is probably greatly underestimated” (as cited in Bartol & Bartol, 2012, p. 378-379). While these four types of child maltreatment are the most common, there are several other well-known examples of child abuse as well.

According to Emery and Laumann-Billings (1998), “an...
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