In every state and US territory, there are laws that protect children from child abuse. Anyone who suspects any form of abuse should report the child abuse immediately. If you believe someone is abusing or neglecting a child, you can anonymously report it. Witnesses should either call authorities, social workers, educators, healthcare workers, and even 911 at any time.
Reporting child abuse can seem daunting. After witnessing what you believe is child abuse, you may question whether or not it’s your place.
You may not think that reporting right away would make a difference, however, almost 5 children die from child abuse every day. You could be the link to helping a child and prevent another senseless death. Whether the suspected abuse is physical, emotional, neglectful, or sexual, you should report the abuse.
How To Report Child Abuse
There are several ways witnesses can report child abuse. Most of these services will allow child abuse witnesses to report the abuse anonymously. Witnesses can either call, text, or file a report form with your local state.
If the abused child is someone the witness would like to remain in contact with, please contact a lawyer. A lawyer can help report the abuse while ensuring that the child does not end up in the wrong custody. My Case Helper works with qualified partners nationwide who can assist you.
To find a family lawyer near you, call 844-934-2387 for free legal advice today. Otherwise, witnesses can report the alleged abuse and to find information, crisis intervention, and resources by:
- Calling or texting the National Childhelp Hotline at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453)
- Filing a report with your state’s toll-free lines
- Submitting a tip to the Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline
- Contacting the local police or law enforcement if you believe the child is in immediate harm or danger
Anonymously Reporting Abuse
Not only can you anonymously report abuse to a number of different outlets, the child will also remain anonymous. Reporting is completely confidential for the child. This means they are protected from the public view. Meaning, the child won’t be subjected to interactions with the reporter, other family members, or the alleged abuser.
The reason being that the investigation will include personal information about the child, the child’s family members, living conditions, as well as the child’s injuries. For the child’s safety, these records will remain private from the public unless accessed by:
- A physician
- Medical examiner
- Authorized researcher
- Court personnel such as an attorney
- Subjects of the report
- Guardians of the child
The records will stay maintained by social services for their records along with statistical and funding purposes.
The records will remain confidential until the abuse results in death or is near-death. Otherwise, the only information available to the public is:
- The date of birth and gender
- Causes of death
- Date of the fatal incident
- The offender’s relationship to the child
- A summary of the offender’s previous abuse
- Services provided by the state and social services
Types of Abuse
Each state has different definitions on the extent of abuse. There are four common types of categorized abuse: physical, emotional, sexual, neglect.
Some states further categorize child abuse based off parental behavior such as drug acciction or standards of living conditions. However, this abuse is often debated as the situation may not be directly harming or negatively affecting the child. This is also why it’s important for social services to perform extensive investigations.
Many states also recognize that the alleged abuse may not necessarily be intentional, but simply due to lack of education. Many religious and cultural differences also attribute to unintentional child abuse. This is also why witness reports should be as detailed as possible.
Physical abuse is non-accidental injury to a child caused by a guardian or caregiver. This can include:
- Hitting with hands or objects
Although there are differing opinions on the use of physical discipline like spanking or paddling, it is not considered abuse by most states. The physical discipline must be “reasonable and cause no bodily injury to the child” according to the national Department of Health and Human Services. If the physical discipline reaches beyond causing lasting physical harm such as bruises, fractures, marks, or scars, then it’s considered physical abuse.
Emotional or psychological abuse is the neglect of a child’s emotional needs. Failure to provide children with proper emotional and psychological care can impair a child’s ability to develop and can lead to issues of self-worth. Emotional abuse includes:
- Constant criticism
- Withholding love, support, or guidance
This can also include permitting children to use drugs or alcohol at an inappropriate age. Emotional abuse often goes unreported, as it’s difficult to prove. Child services are often unable to intervene without physical proof of harm or mental injury.
This is why it’s important for witnesses to have detailed accounts of interactions of emotional neglect. If you believe a child is being emotionally abused, speak with them candidly about their relationship with the alleged abuser.
Sexual abuse includes getting a child to participate, encourage, or assist a child in sexual conduct. This type of abuse can either be very difficult for a witnesses to comprehend, however, it’s important to know the signs of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse can include:
- Indecent exposure
- Fondling or touching a child’s genitals
- Permitted statutory rape
Any kind of sexual exploitation or permitted sexual exploitation by a caregiver or guardian is considered sexual abuse.
Neglect can include a number of behaviours by guardians and caregivers on a physical, emotional, or sexual level of abuse. This may include:
- Failure to provide proper shelter or supervision
- Failure to provide medical or mental health treatments
- Withholding education or special needs care
- Withholding food, medicine, or care
- Exposing a child to physical, emotional, or sexual harm and abuse
A child is considered abandoned when the whereabouts or identity of a parent or caregiver is unknown. Some states have Safe Haven laws for parents or caregivers to forego care. Caregivers can relinquish custody if they are unable to properly provide for a child.
To speak with an expert on the grounds of abuse you have witnessed, use the above resources or call one of our partners for free legal advice.