Family Law

Children: Innocent Victims of Aggression and Abuse

The United Nations began observing International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression in 1982 in response to the plight of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese children who were victimized by "acts of aggression" during the Palestinian conflict.

Today, the day is reminder of those same types of threats children face across the globe as a result of armed conflict. But it also serves as a reminder that children are the victims of many other forms of abuse and the need to end all abuses of our children.

What's Abuse?

Child abuse comes in many forms. Basically, it's anything someone does, or doesn't do, that results in the death, serious physical or emotional harm or sexual abuse of a child, or presents an immediate risk of harm to the child. Usually, the abuser is the child's parent or some other caregiver, but it may be a grandparent, sibling or even a teacher or coach at school.

There are three basic kinds of abuse:

  • Emotional abuse, such as constantly and repeatedly belittling or shaming a child; calling her names; and threats and bullying
  • Neglect is when a child doesn't get the food, clothing, supervision or health care he needs from a parent
  • Physical abuse is when a child suffers a physical injury, either as a result of an intentional or deliberate act meant to hurt the child, or maybe from physical discipline that goes too far - usually when the child suffers bruises, welts or other long-lasting injuries or effects of the discipline

Every state has laws on child abuse, and the penalties may mean a fine, jail or both. It may also lead to the child being taken from the parents' home and placed in the care of a state or local agency.

Each state also has laws requiring certain people to report suspected child abuse. They're called mandated reporters, and they usually have a special relationship with the child. For example, in Ohio, attorneys, doctors, nurses and school teachers and employees are required by law to report suspected child abuse to the local public children services agency or to the police.

Other Atrocities

Unfortunately, there are uglier abuses suffered by children across the globe. For example:

  • According to the US Department of Justice, 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked (meaning they're sold or traded like property) across international borders each year, and 50 percent of them are children. Most of the victims are forced into the commercial sex trade. The US has stiff anti-trafficking laws
  • It's believed that about 250,000 children under 18 years old are fighting as soldiers in combat areas around the world and thousands more could be sent into combat at any time
  • Around the world, 40,000 children under 5 years old die each day from hunger, malnutrition or preventable diseases

Help Put an End to It All

There are a number of things you can do to stop child abuse and protect our children from other atrocities:

  • Be aware of child abuse and report it if you see it. If you know the person, talk to him about his behavior and try to convince him to get professional help. If that doesn't work, contact the police
  • Take a breath when dealing with your child. If your first impulse is to strike your child for doing something wrong, take a few seconds and think about it. You can teach your child a lesson and have discipline without hurting him
  • Talk to your children to make sure someone else isn't abusing them. For instance, corporal punishment is allowed in some schools, but a teacher can't physically abuse your child. You can also demand that school personnel not use corporal punishment on your child
  • Contact your representatives in the US Senate and ask therm to ratify or "approve" the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It's designed to protect every child's basic human rights. The US has signed the Convention, but until it's ratified the US government isn't legally required to follow it
  • Get involved with a local child abuse prevention program and help parents and children in need

They're often called our most valued treasure, and we should do everything in our power to protect them as such. It may only take a few minutes or even seconds to abuse a child, but the effects can last a lifetime.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can I get into legal trouble if I make an honest mistake and report child abuse when in fact there was no abuse?
  • Is a parent legally responsible if a child is seriously injured by his brother or sister?
  • I think my ex-husband is abusing our child. Is that grounds for getting custody changed to me? What do I need to prove the abuse?
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