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Child Abuse in Texas

2018-04-11T22:28:33-05:00February 7th, 2017|Categories: Child Abuse|

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:

  • physical
  • 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
  • prosecutors
  • child protective service investigators
  • forensic interviewers
  • medical staff
  • therapists
  • 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?

  • Conversation

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 

Child Sexual Abuse and Disabilities

2018-04-11T22:28:42-05:00January 31st, 2017|Categories: Children with disabilities|

Societal myths and lack of protection services put sexual abuse victims with disability at an increased risk for ongoing sexual abuse. The disabilities these children face may require the use of crutches or a wheelchair; they may be blind; they may have a speech or hearing disability. The disability might not even be visible: heart conditions, diabetes, epilepsy, dyslexia or other learning disabilities are examples. It is not unusual for children and youth with disabilities to be labeled as having “behavior problems”, being “difficult”, “developmentally challenged”, “mentally retarded”, “mentally handicapped”, or having “psychiatric problems”. In order to better understand the risk children with disabilities face, it is important to be aware of the difference between Myth and Reality.

Sexual Abuse and Disability: Myths and Realities



Sexual abuse victims with disability are non-existent because people with disability are neither sexual nor attractive. Sexual abuse is primarily motivated by power and control. Individuals with disability may be easier to manipulate and less likely to report.
People with disability are either over-sexualized and unable to control their sexual impulses, or are asexual. Young people with disability go through similar stages of development as their peers without disability.
If young people with disability are protected and kept away from strangers, they will be safe from sexual abuse. Most young people are sexually abused by those they know and trust.
Young victims with disability don’t fully understand what is happening to them so they will not feel emotional pain when they are sexually abused. A young person with a disability may not have the same words to describe their pain, but their emotional anguish is very real.
Young people with disability are incapable of understanding and relating information, and they are prone to fantasizing and lying. They may process and communicate in different ways, but they are no less credible and truthful.
People with disability are child-like; they never really become adults, therefore cannot become sexual abuse victims with disability. While those with certain disabilities may not mature in the same manner or at the same rate as others, they do not remain children; therefore, they can indeed become sexual abuse victims with disability.
Adapted from The McCreary Centre Society, 19932

People with developmental disabilities are disproportionately at high risk for violent victimization, abuse, and neglect. (USDOJ, 2015)

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2015 report, Violent victimization for persons with disabilities was more than triple the rate among persons without disabilities, serious violent victimization for persons with disabilities was more than three times than that for persons without disabilities. The rate of violence for males with disabilities was 37 per 1,000 compared to 16 per 1,000 for males without disabilities; more than double the rate. The rate of violence for females with disabilities, was 35 per 1,000 compared to 12 per 1,000 for females without disabilities, almost triple the rate.

From 2009-2013 persons with intellectual disabilities had the highest rate of violent victimization, and among persons with intellectual disabilities, the average annual rate of serious violent victimization has doubled. The average annual of serious violent victimization against persons with self-care disabilities more than doubled, while the percentage of violent victimization against persons with disabilities in which the victim had multiple disability types increased for rape or sexual assault and robbery.

Research from Lang & Frenzel, 1988, reminds us that some offenders specifically seek victims with disabilities because they are perceived to be vulnerable, unable to seek help, and/or cannot or will not report the crime. Risk of victimization is likely increased if the offender believes the victim will not be able to successfully or credibly tell anyone about the crime.

The nature of the child’s disability may prevent them defending themselves, escaping from the abusive situation, or reporting the abuse; this may cause potential perpetrators to believe they can “get away with it”.

 The rate of violence experienced by youth with disabilities compared to youth without disabilities.

  • Ages 12 to 15:  More than triple the rate.
  • Ages 16 to 19:  More than double the rate. (USDOJ, 2015).

Children and youth with disabilities are more likely than children and youth without disabilities. (Hershkowitz, Lamb, & Horowitz, 2007)

  • To experience physical abuse resulting in bodily injury.
  • To experience serious sexual offenses including those involving.
    • Penetration
    • Repeated abuse
    • Use of force
    • Threats

In a five-year retrospective study of 4,340 child patients with disabilities in a pediatric hospital. (Willging, Bower, and Cotton, 1992)

  • 68 percent were found to be victims of sexual abuse
  • 32 percent were victims of physical abuse

It is important that we increase our awareness of the factors that make our children and youth with disabilities more vulnerable to abuse. Factors such as:

Powerlessness: children and youth with disability are not given the power to make choices for themselves; caregivers make decisions for them. Their dependence on caregivers also puts them at risk for becoming sexual abuse victims with disability. They are taught to obey their caregivers and compliance is reinforced.

Need for personal care: people with certain physical disabilities require someone to bathe them and help them using the toilet. They have little control over who touches their bodies, and in what manner.

Isolation: often times, children with disability are isolated from the rest of the community, which increases the likelihood that sexual abuse will take place, and it also increases the likelihood that the abuse will go undetected.

Physical defenselessness: physical, visual and hearing disabilities limit the child/youth from being able to physically protect him/herself.

Language, speech or vocabulary barriers: disabled children and youth may have difficulty protesting to offenders, asking for help, or disclosing abuse, which in turn puts sexual abuse victims with disability at risk for further sexual abuse.

Impaired or limited cognitive abilities: young people with intellectual disability may not understand an abusive situation and are more easily swayed and otherwise manipulated.

Lack of abuse prevention education: lack of information makes it difficult for children with disability to understand and recognize abusive situations.

Unprotective organizational structures and policies: organizational institutions that don’t have adequate screening of staff and volunteers, that have rigid routines, have a high child/youth-to-staff ratio, and lack clear abuse guidelines and policies put people with disability at greater risk for abuse.



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