Emotional abuse, which is also sometimes referred to as psychological maltreatment, is commonly defined as a pattern of behavior that can negatively impact the cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development of the victim. Emotional abuse of a child by a parent, caregiver or other person in authority, almost always has a detrimental effect on that child, which can often last for the entirety of their lives.
Emotional abuse can include verbal assaults, like name calling, and also terrorizing, which usually includes frightening the child by threatening them with harm or intentionally placing them in situations that terrify them. It can also include ignoring them for prolonged periods, isolating them from family and peers, rejecting them as individuals, or neglecting their basic emotional needs.
Can I Get Into Trouble for Emotional Abuse?
Because the definition of emotional abuse is very often imprecise, as everyone has their own interpretation of what this means, it can be something of a gray area from a legal standpoint. Emotional abuse is difficult to distinguish from psychological abuse in many instances. Because most experts agree that emotional child abuse can be summed up as an assault on that child's psyche, it is safe to say that "emotional" and "mental" abuse are likely to be viewed as being the same thing in the eyes of the law.
This is an important distinction to make, because the Michigan penal code does not specify that emotional abuse of a child is against the law. But the description of what child abuse could entail does include references to "mental harm".
Emotional Abuse In Michigan Law
For example, First Degree Child Abuse, which is a felony punishable by up to life in prison, is listed as follows: A person is guilty of child abuse in the first degree, if the person knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical or serious mental harm to a child.
It goes on to describe Serious Mental Harm as "an injury to a child's mental condition or welfare that is not necessarily permanent, but results in visibly demonstrable manifestations of a substantial disorder of thought or mood which significantly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life."
Another example of how emotional abuse may be included in the penal code is the state's description of Third Degree Child Abuse. This is explained as "knowingly or intentionally committing an act that, under the circumstances, poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child, regardless of whether physical harm results."
Placing a child in a situation that frightens them, due to the possibility of harm, could be considered Child Abuse in the Third Degree in the eyes of the law. Even if the parent was simply trying to teach the child a lesson, and never intended to hurt them in any way, if the child is frightened or terrorized, the act could be prosecuted as child abuse.
Effects Of Emotional Abuse
Numerous studies over the years have shown that children who suffer from emotional abuse, such as regular shaming, ignoring, or terrorizing, are likely to manifest unwanted behaviors which increase in severity as they age. These behaviors can include, but are not limited to, low self esteem, self destructive behaviors, promiscuity, substance abuse problems, anger, difficulty forming relationships, cruelty toward animals, and suicidal tendencies.
Emotional abuse does not leave any physical traces as physical abuse does, which makes it harder to detect. Although there are a number of professionals who claim that emotional abuse exists within all other forms of child abuse, it is hardest to identify when it is the only form of abuse that a child suffers.
Proving Emotional Abuse In Court
In other words, if a parent or caregiver has treated a child in a way that has a lasting negative impact on them, without ever physically harming them, that person may be charged with child abuse. In order for this to happen, the prosecutor must prove the cause and effect relationship between the parent's abuse and the child's psychological or emotional damage. But this is surprisingly easy to do, as most prosecutors are able to hire psychologists and child counselors who will attest to the damage in court.
While emotional abuse that happens independently of all other forms of abuse is hardest to pinpoint in a child, there are methods by which professionals attempt to determine when children are the victims of emotional abuse. These include specific questions about family behaviors, and also techniques like fantasy play in a controlled therapy setting, and art therapy.
Defense Against Abuse Charges
Parents and caregivers who are charged with Child Abuse are facing a battle that will involve police and prosecutors turning their lives upside down in an effort to discover signs of abuse. It will be invasive, traumatic and frightening. In addition, it may include having to undergo the same trauma twice, as the criminal proceedings are different from an investigation conducted by CPS. For this reason, anyone facing allegations of child abuse, even when the abuse charges are not true, needs an experienced attorney fighting to protect their rights and defend them against any violations of their privacy.
At The Kronzek Firm, we are those attorneys. We have decades of combined experience defending parents and caregivers against false allegations and accusations of abuse. We have gone head to head with CPS and Prosecutors in almost every county in the state, and we are highly experienced in handling child abuse cases.
Being convicted of a crime against a child can have a devastating impact on your entire future. It can hamper your chances of getting a good job, damage your reputation, and leave you with a terrible social stigma that will negatively affect the rest of your life. But an experienced and aggressive defense attorney can help to protect you from the trauma of a child abuse conviction. Don't entrust your future, or the future of your family, to an inexperienced attorney, who's not up to the task. Call The Kronzek Firm today. We can help you.
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