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The conversation around child abuse and reasonable punishment has been going on since the beginning of parenting. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement urging parents not to spank or physically punish their children.

Still, it’s not against the law. It’s just a recommendation about how people should discipline their children.

Despite this, spanking and other types of corporal punishment may be mistaken for child abuse, and you need to take any charges very seriously. If you have been accused of abusing your child, you may face serious penalties.

Don’t lose your child over a misunderstanding – learn the law, and fight back with someone who understands these types of criminal charges.

North Carolina law uses “child abuse” as an umbrella term that covers four different types of abuse. Know the definition of these terms in case they come up in court. A criminal defense lawyer can help you build a case against these accusations, but it is important that you know what charges you are up against as well.

How North Carolina Law Breaks Down Child Abuse

Physical Abuse

This is the most obvious type of child abuse. Physically assaulting your child with the intention of causing injury or the fear of injury is prohibited under North Carolina law. “Injury” is loosely defined in North Carolina – talk to your lawyer about how your intentions play into your defense.

Physical abuse includes more than just punishing or assaulting your child. Other forms of physical abuse include:

  • Using drugs or drinking while pregnant or nursing
  • Causing illness in a child or convincing them that they are seriously ill
  • Shaking a baby

Behavior Modification

Not all punishments include spanking or physical injuries. Sending your child to “conversion therapy,” for example, may be considered child abuse under North Carolina.

Unlawful behavior modification uses cruel and abusive tactics in order to punish a child. Failing to cook your child dinner as punishment may also be considered unlawful behavior modification. However, taking away their Xbox or withholding allowance is not considered illegal in North Carolina.

Sexual Abuse

This is another obvious type of child abuse. North Carolina’s age of consent is 16. Children under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to sexual activity. Any form of sexual conduct with a child is considered sexual abuse and child abuse.

The penalties for sexual abuse of a child are much more severe than the penalties for sexual abuse of an adult. If the court considers you to be a “person of authority,” the consequences are even worse.

Emotional Abuse

Similar to behavior modification, emotional abuse doesn’t involve any form of hitting or physical punishment. However, if you deliberately say or do things to hurt a child emotionally, you may be accused of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse may include threats, insults, or subjecting a child to the abuse of other people in the household. A child who is anxious, depressed, or experiencing symptoms of PTSD may be mistaken for a child who is being abused.

Defense Strategies for North Carolina Child Abuse Charges

Defense Strategies for North Carolina Child Abuse Charges

As you can see, there are some serious grey areas when it comes to child abuse. Miscommunication and mandatory reporting laws may encourage a teacher or authority figure to report child abuse when there was none present.

If you are accused, you need to start building a strong defense with your lawyer as soon as possible. Child abuse is not as cut and dry as say, theft charges, so it’s especially important to talk through your parenting methods with a professional, and to build a case where the alleged abuse can be interpreted as a lawful form of punishment.


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