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What is the Definition of Child Abuse?

Four or five children are killed by child abuse or neglect every day, according to And every year, there are more than 3 million reports of child abuse made in the United Sates, involving more than 6 million children (reports may include multiple children). As heartbreaking and challenging it is to discuss this issue, it is our responsibility to help raise awareness and speak out on behalf of these innocent children. In the upcoming weeks we will be sharing important information with you about child abuse, where to get help, and how to be a part of the solution. First, we want to take a closer look at the definition of what child abuse is, as related to Colorado law. Keep in mind that each state may have a different definition for what is considered child abuse.

What is considered abuse? According to, abuse is considered any

act or omission where child is subject to sexual assault, molestation, exploitation, emotional abuse or prostitution; where child is in need of food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision because parent or guardian fails to do so; where child exhibits evidence of skin bruising, bleeding, malnutrition, burns, fractures, etc.; or circumstances indicate a condition that may not be the product of an accidental occurrence.

The Colorado Office of Children, Youth & Families website also provides additional information on the types of abuse and neglect including, emotional, physical, sexual and institutional abuse and neglect.

Emotional Abuse:Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance.Learn more.

Physical Abuse:Physical abuse is defined as any non-accidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has responsibility for the child.Learn more.

Sexual Abuse:Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.Learn more.

Neglect:Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect comes in many forms, including physical, medical, educational, and emotional neglect.Learn more.

Institutional Abuse:Some children reside in an institution, and child protective service employees must address their safety while they are in an institution’s care. It is possible that any form of abuse or neglect may occur while a child is in the care of an institution. If the maltreatment is caused by employees of the institution, it is classified as institutional abuse.Learn more.

A closer look at the child abuse law:
According to H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Specialist, the Child Abuse Statue is a complex one. The article explains that it is set up to require an analysis of two different components.

  1. The mental state of the accused at the time of the crime.
  2. The result of the accused actions, or rather, the injury of the child.

Once both components have been analyzed and if the accused is found guilty, a punishment will be made. There are of course, many intricate parts of the analysis. The process is not a simple one, read this for more information.

The law also explains that individuals who report child abuse to the authorities, other than perpetrator, coconspirator, or accessory, will be immune to criminal or civil liability for any repercussions of making the report, unless they willingly know that the claim is false.

For more detailed information about what is included in the law, please visit the website of H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Specialist.

What are the reporting laws?
In Colorado it is required that any third party or professional with any suspicion or knowledge of abuse of a child must report it to the authorities. According to, this includes (but is not limited to):

  • Physicians
  • Child health associate
  • Dentist
  • Chiropractor
  • Nurse
  • Hospital personnel
  • School employee
  • Social worker
  • Mental health professional
  • Veterinarian
  • Peace officer
  • Pharmacist
  • Psychologist
  • Fireman
  • Victim’s advocate
  • Commercial film and photographic print processor
  • Clergyman

It is expected that these individuals would file a report if they had a reasonable cause to know or suspect that there was abuse or neglect occurring. explains that reports should be made to the local county or district department of social services or local law enforcement. Reporting child abuse is a very serious matter. Those that willfully violate or abstain from reporting, could be penalized with a Class 3 misdemeanor, in addition to liability for caused damages.


How can you help?

Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline:  1-844-CO-4-Kids or 1-844-264-5437

If you need to report suspected child abuse or neglect call the hotline 24/7, 365 days/year. “The hotline is designed to provide on, easy-to-remember, toll-free phone number for individuals to use statewide.” To learn more about the hotline, visit, the Colorado Office of Children, Youth & Families website. You can learn more about reporting a problem at the Tennyson Center for Children website as well.

The Colorado Office of Children, Youth & Families website makes a point to explain the following to those needing to make a report:

  • Reports are confidential.
  • You will be asked to describe your concerns about the child and it will be helpful if you can provide the child’s name, age, address, gender, school attended (if possible), and names of parents.

Please don’t wait. Get help today.



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