Understanding Child Maltreatment
Child abuse can occur anywhere and is not restricted to a particular group, race, income, or location. Wherever there are children, there is the potential for abuse. In order to do your part, it is important to understand and recognize the warning signs for child abuse and neglect.
What is Child Abuse and Neglect?
Child abuse is an act or failure to act by a parent or caregiver that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or that creates an imminent risk of serious harm to a child. Child abuse typically refers to harm caused by parents or other caregivers, but acquaintances, strangers, and other persons may also be responsible for abusing a child. Child abuse and neglect in Wisconsin are legally defined in Wisconsin’s Children’s Code (Chapter 48).
Physical abuse is physical injury inflicted on a child by other than accidental means. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to:
● Physical beatings
● Human bites
Sexual abuse includes sexual intercourse, exploitation, and any sexual contact, touching or non-touching, with a child. This includes, but is not limited to:
Non-touching sexual offenses:
● Frank discussions about sexual acts intended to arouse the child’s interest
● Obscene telephone calls
● Allowing children to witness or hear sexual acts
Touching sexual offenses:
● Touching of breasts
● Attempted intercourse
● Fondling of the genitals
Emotional damage is harm to a child’s psychological or intellectual functioning. Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior that attacks children’s emotional development, their spirit and self-concept, and makes them feel unloved, unlovable, and worthless. It is thought to be the most common form of abuse. Emotional abuse usually accompanies other forms of abuse and has long lasting effects on the individual. This type of abuse includes, but is not limited to:
● Constant criticizing, belittling, insulting, or rejecting a child
● Withholding love, support, guidance
Neglect is failure, refusal, or inability on the part of a parent of caregiver to provide necessary care that may seriously endanger the physical health of a child, except for reasons of poverty. Neglect may include or be characterized by a lack or absence of the following basic care needs:
● Proper food
● Medical and dental care
● Love and attention
● Supervision and setting limits
Unborn Child Abuse
Child abuse in Wisconsin also includes cases where an unborn child is endangered due to the expectant mothers “habitual lack of self-control in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree.” Unborn child abuse includes serious physical harm to the unborn child or the risk of serious physical harm to the child when born as a result of the mother’s substance abuse.
The manufacturing of methamphetamine is also recognized as a form of child abuse or neglect in cases where:
● A child is physically present during the manufacture.
● It occurs in a child’s home, on the premises of a child’s home, or in a motor vehicle located on the premises of a child’s home.
● Under any circumstances a reasonable person should have known that the manufacture would be seen, smelled, or heard by a child.