The concept of child abuse involves an extremely wide range of legal issues. The claim of abuse often carries the potential for both civil and criminal consequences. The civil consequences can be legal (loss of custody, loss of visitation) or social (public shunning, the breakdown of a marriage, loss of employment). The criminal consequences depend on the extent of inflicted abuse: physical assault, sexual assault, or rape.
Child abuse is defined in §261.001 of the Family Code. That definition is then used to decide:
The basic definition of child abuse includes both acts and omissions, if they harm the child:
The state can impose some responsibility for child abuse on several different people, including not only the person who actually inflicts it, but also:
The child abuse law explicitly defines several different types of sexual abuse. These include sexual conduct, or failure to use reasonable efforts to prevent sexual conduct, that is harmful to the child’s welfare. The law specifically designates several child sexual offenses described in the penal code as harmful, including:
Another section equates child sex abuse to various crimes that can be considered the exploitation of children by encouraging or compelling them:
Filming, photographing or depicting a child in an obscene or pornographic fashion is also defined as child sexual abuse, as is allowing, making or encouraging that activity.
When the charge is sexual abuse, the state’s case begins with a child abuse report, followed by a lengthy investigation. The witnesses interviewed may be reliable, but may also be mistaken or even fabricating testimony to get back at the defendant or to obtain favorable rulings in divorce or custody proceedings. The child may or may not be capable of really understanding what the investigators are asking.
Depending on the type of abusive activity that is alleged, there may be no physical signs. In those and other cases, the state may rely on evidence about the alleged victim’s behavior to establish that abuse occurred. That is obviously subjective at best, and may well be explained by any number of things other than sexual abuse.
Being charged with abusing a child, whether it be physically, sexually, or emotionally, can mark the end of family relationships and friendships, and may be the beginning of a long, painful road to jail or prison for a long time. In one year, more than 65,000 cases of child abuse were confirmed in the state of Texas alone.
Public opinion is almost always hostile to people accused of abuse, and police and prosecutors tend to see these cases as crusades to protect the innocent. In other words, you face an uphill battle once child abuse charges are filed, and your best defense is an experienced Texas defense attorney who understands both the legal and the practical sides of the case.
Houston sex crimes defense attorney Mary E. Conn has spent more than 30 years defending these difficult cases. A top-rated Texas defense lawyer, Mary is known for treating her clients with courtesy and respect. She knows the social issues that hide below the legal ones, and understands how prosecutors approach these cases. If you are involved in a child abuse case in any way, call Mary E. Conn Law today for your free consultation.