Child abuse is a broad terms that covers many different crimes committed against children. Sometimes the mistreatment of a child is very obvious and the question is who committed the offense. But often child abuse allegations arise from innocent bruises or ambiguous statements by a child that are viewed as suspicious. I have a proven track record of successfully representing people accused of abusing a child physically, emotionally or sexually. If you anticipate being questioned about suspicions of child abuse, you should consult with a child abuse lawyer before agreeing to talk about it. This doesn’t just apply to questioning by police; teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses are all mandated reporters and what you tell them may be repeated to the Department of Children (DCF) and Families, the agency responsible for investigating these claims. You certainly should speak to a lawyer before meeting with a DCF investigator.
Lawfully disciplining your child or injuries resulting from an accident may be mistaken as evidence of abuse by well-intentioned teachers, doctors, and others who interact with your child. Bumps, bruises and suspicious marks can be misinterpreted as excessive force. A child’s illness or medical condition may also be mistaken for abuse. With infants and toddlers, false accusations of child abuse may start in a doctor’s examining room or hospital emergency room. Sexual abuse suspicions and charges may also arise against an innocent person. The alleged victim may be an emotionally troubled teen who is looking for attention or a very young child who is influenced during a custody dispute.
Child abuse accusations can be handled in different ways: they may start with a Department of Children and Family investigation that may lead to a referral to the District Attorney’s Office who then initiates criminal charges. In some cases, the process starts with the police arresting an individual accused of abuse and a DCF investigation follows. Even if you have not been charged yet, you need a Lowell child abuse lawyer to ensure that you are protected throughout the investigation.
Types of Child Abuse Under Massachusetts Law
The Department of Children and Families define the following as child abuse or neglect:
- Abuse: creating a substantial risk of physical or emotional injury or any sexual contact between a caretaker and child;
- Shaken baby syndrome: causing severe injury to an infant, small child, or baby as a result of severely shaking, jerking, pushing or pulling the child;
- Neglect: the failure of a caretaker to provide a child with adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical care, supervision, emotional stability and growth, or other type of essential care;
- Emotional injury: impairing the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child;
- Physical injury: causing any physical injury (burn, fracture, organ impairment, soft tissue swelling, death) to a child; and
- Institutional abuse or neglect: when any of the above occurs at an institution, such as a group home, hospital, daycare, etc.