The following working definitions are derived from the legal definitions in the state laws. The language has been simplified in order to increase knowledge and understanding of the Law.
Any behavior which results in touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a child for the purpose of sexual gratification of the child and/or adult. It includes touching by the child and/or adult without or with clothing. Often, the sexual abuse occurs over time and may not be painful or cause physical injury to the child. The adult gets the child to participate by using rewards, threats, bribes and lying, and takes advantage of the child’s trust. This type of coercion by an adult, whom the child often loves, can result in long term emotional trauma that can last into adulthood.
Sexual abuse occurs when a parent (or person legally responsible) commits or allows to be committed, a sexual act with a child:
Physical abuse occurs when a parent (or person legally responsible) commits a physical act (i.e. punching, beating, shaking, throwing, kicking, biting, burning) which causes serious physical injury to a child. Although the injury is not an accident, the parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child. The injury often results from out of control rage and anger, which can lead to over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child’s age or condition. If a resulting injury is not considered serious, it may be considered a form of neglect.
Physical abuse occurs when a parent (or person legally responsible) inflicts or allows to be inflicted a serious physical injury. These are limited to:
Different kinds of neglect may result from things that a parent/caretaker does, as well as things that a parent/caretaker doesn’t do.
- Things that a parent does: Neglect occurs when a parent/caretaker does something to the child that results in physical, mental, or emotional harm; when a parent causes physical injuries which are harmful to the child, but are not as medically serious as those that would meet the definition of physical abuse; and when a parent misuses drugs or alcohol in a way that harms the child physically or emotionally.
- Things that a parent doesn’t do: Neglect occurs when a child is harmed physically, mentally or emotionally because a parent/caretaker fails to provide a minimal level of care for the child’s basic needs. Poverty, however, is not the same as neglect.
Neglect occurs when a parent (or person legally responsible) fails to provide a minimum level of care by doing something that inflicts harm, allows harm to be inflicted, or creates an imminent danger of harm. The harm, however, does not result in the kind of serious physical injury that is defined as physical abuse.