Should You Report Child Abuse?
Anyone who suspects any form of child abuse should report it immediately. If you believe someone is abusing or neglecting a child, you can anonymously report it. Witnesses can call any law enforcement, social worker, educator, and even healthcare worker at any time.
Reporting child abuse is daunting, and you may question whether or not it’s your place. You may not think that reporting right away would make a difference, but it could save a child’s life. Whether the abuse is physical, emotional, neglectful, or sexual, you should report it.
Witness and reporters are legally protected. Anyone who reports child abuse in good faith has rights and legal protection. You cannot be sued for have your identity revealed if you make a report.
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How To Report Child Abuse
There are several ways you can report child abuse. Witnesses can either call, text, or file a report form with their state’s child abuse tipline.
If the abused child is someone you 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.
Witnesses can report the suspected abuse, and find information 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
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Anonymously Reporting Abuse
Not only can you anonymously report abuse to a number of different outlets, the child will also remain anonymous. Children remain completely anonymous and protected from the public view during and after investigations. The child won’t be subjected to interactions with other family members, or the alleged abuser if Child Protective Services (CPS) believes they’re in trouble.
The investigation will include personal information about the child, the child’s family members, living conditions, as well as the child’s injuries. However, all names and personal identifiers are confidential. For the child’s safety, these records will remain private from the public unless they must be accessed by a:
- Medical examiner
- Authorized researcher
- Court personnel such as an attorney
- Subject of the report
- Guardian of the child
The records 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
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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 the parent’s behavior such as drug addiction or living conditions. CPS must legally investigate every claim that’s made. During an investigation, the CPS social worker decides if the environment is harmful to the child, and may even help the parents find better solutions.
Many states also recognize that the alleged abuse may not necessarily be intentional, but simply due to socioeconomic, cultural, or religious differences. Be sure to make your report as detailed as possible so CPS has a full understanding of your perspective.
Physical abuse is a non-accidental injury to a child caused by a guardian or caregiver. This can include:
- Hitting with hands or objects
Although the use of physical discipline like spanking is widely debated, it’s not considered abuse in most states. The physical discipline like spanking must be within reason and causes no bodily injury. If the discipline causes 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 severely impact a child’s development and 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. CPS is 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 is having or encouraging children to participate or assist in any kind of sexual conduct. This abuse is very difficult for a witness to comprehend and process. Some common signs of sexual abuse include:
- Indecent exposure
- Fondling or touching a child’s genitals
- Permitted statutory rape
Any kind of sexual exploitation or permitted sexual exploitation by an adult is 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.
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