Today, 185 Texas children will be victims of abuse. In one year, more than 65,000 cases of child abuse were confirmed in Texas. 1 in 4 Girls is sexually abused before her 18th birthday. 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before his 18th birthday.
What Is Child Abuse?
Texas law provides a definition of child abuse. In addition, the law provides criminal sanctions for assaults, sexual assaults, and other acts that may be committed against children. The definition of child abuse, which is part of the Texas Family Code, is the basis for civil actions to protect a child from an abuser (such as removal of a child from the home). The Penal Code provides the basis for the criminal prosecution of a person who assaults or otherwise commits a crime against a child. The definition of child abuse and some relevant sections of the Penal Code can be found in the appendix to this handbook.
Chapter 261 of the Family Code (recodified in 1995) states that child abuse is an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child’s physical, mental or emotional health and development. Child abuse may take several different forms:
- emotional injury
- sexual abuse
- sexual exploitation
- physical neglect
- medical neglect
- inadequate supervision.
The law specifically excludes “reasonable” discipline by the child’s parent, guardian, or conservator; corporal punishment is not in itself abusive under the law. An act or omission is abusive only if “observable and material impairment” occurs as a result, or if it causes “substantial harm,” or exposes the child to risk of substantial harm.
Neglect, like physical and emotional abuse, hinges on substantial harm or observable and material impairment. The law excludes from its definition of neglect any failure to provide for the child that is due to lack of financial resources. A child living in poverty is not a victim of neglect under the Texas Family Code except in cases where relief has been offered and refused by the child’s parent, guardian, or conservator.
Accidental injury or harm is also excluded from the definition of abuse. However, a person commits abuse if s/he places a child, or allows a child to be placed, in a situation where the child is exposed to “substantial risk” of injury or harm. The law also clearly states that a person commits abuse if s/he fails to make a reasonable effort to prevent another person from abusing a child. This provision applies to all forms of abuse, including physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.
Who we are at the Johnson County Children’s Advocacy Center:
The mission of the Johnson County Children’s Advocacy Center is to provide each child who has suffered abuse, with justice, hope and healing. The JCCAC has been fearless in its approach to addressing child abuse and other issues that impact the youth in Johnson County. We use a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) approach to work these serious felony cases. Our team includes the following agencies:
- Crimes Against Children detectives
- child protective service investigators
- forensic interviewers
- medical staff
- family advocates
- juvenile services.
The appropriate team members are notified each time a child’s case is referred that fits case criteria. The JCCAC works cases of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse and cases where children have witnessed homicides or other violent crimes. The Center is designed to be welcoming and comforting for children. Just beyond the front door there is a compassionate staff and amazing K-9 Advocates waiting to greet kids. We are a state and nationally accredited Center. Our state association is Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, Inc. and our national association is the National Children’s Alliance. Our state and national associations are critical in keeping all Centers working jointly across the nation on behalf of child victims.
The Johnson County Children’s Advocacy Center has been providing services for child victims using a multi-disciplinary team approach since 1996. Our goal is to ensure that every child who has suffered abuse understands that they have incredible worth and value.
Lean more about Johnson County Children’s Advocacy Center at www.cacjctx.org
The Impact of Texas Children’s Advocacy Centers
A children’s advocacy center is the ONE non-profit to serve as the first stop for children entering the justice system because of suspected sexual abuse, severe physical abuse, and those who have witnessed a violent crime. Last year, more than 43,000 children received critical services at a Texas children’s advocacy center.
The network of 70 Texas CACs now officially serves 194 counties where 97% of the Texas population resides. Each year, courtesy services are provided to children in all remaining Texas counties, 33 states and one country.
Of the total number of children served by a Texas Children Advocacy Centers last year:
- 71% were involved in sexual abuse cases
- 95% knew their perpetrator
- 25% were not old enough to attend kindergarten
How can you help?
Openly discussing this issue is the most effective tool we have to eradicate child abuse. Child sexual abuse is a crime of secrecy which, tragically, breeds within our communities because it’s difficult to talk about.
Adults must be courageous to discuss this issue openly. You can be The Difference simply by pushing discomfort and fear aside to talk openly about this issue, to start a dialogue about it, and to combat the secrecy that enables child abuse. You can be The Difference, inspire others to talk openly about it. We believe that the eradication of child abuse begins with building informed, empowered communities with the courage to talk openly about child abuse.
Locate and learn more about your Local Children’s Advocacy Center:
Children’s advocacy centers (CACs) provide a safe, child-friendly environment where law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical and mental health professionals may share information and develop effective, coordinated strategies sensitive to the needs of each unique case and child.
Learn the signs of child abuse and what to look for:
Signs of child abuse can be subtle, and in many cases, nonexistent. Changes in your child’s routine or new unexplained behaviors are worth a second look.
- Unexplained injuries
- Changes in behavior
- Returning to earlier behaviors
- Fear of certain places or people
- Changes in eating
- Changes to sleeping
- Changes in school performance or attendance
- Lack of personal care in hygiene
- Risk-taking behaviors
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors
Report suspected child abuse in Texas
- Statewide intake is available 24/7: 1-800-252-5400 or www.txabusehotline.org.