Felony child abuse is used to describe a crime in which an adult inflicts bodily harm on a minor. This harm is generally classified as being severe and is oftentimes potentially life-threatening. The characteristics which differentiate felony child abuse from a misdemeanor case usually involve the nature of the abuse and the level of damage done.
In most cases, felony child abuse is physical in nature. This means that emotional abuse does not normally constitute a felony case unless physical injury is also present. Neglect which may put a child in danger may also be considered felony child abuse, such as in the case of a child being left in a hot car unattended or a child who is underfed or malnourished.
For a child abuse case to be tried as a felony, it must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant put a minor child in life-threatening harm or caused harm that was capable of becoming life-threatening or of causing long-term consequences for the child. Sexual abuse is one example of abuse that is not generally life-threatening, but that is usually tried as a felony case because lifelong psychological damage is inflicted. The punishment for a felony child abuse case varies greatly and can range from a few years to several decades.
For a prosecutor to get a conviction in a felony child abuse case, it is almost always necessaryto have the testimony of a child victim. Many abusers, especially sexual predators, have numerous victims in their lifetimes. Without a sworn testimony from someone who has been abused personally by the perpetrator or who witnessed such abuse, a child abuse case can be hard to win. In some cases, testimony from doctors who examined the child or witnesses may be able to win a case if the child is unable or unwilling to testify.
Children who have been the victims of abuse often require counseling to come to terms with issues of abandonment, loss of trust, and fear of being hurt again. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among abuse victims, especially those who were involved in violent crimes. He or she is typically removed from the abusive situation and placed with relatives or another family who can take proper care of him or her. Long-term issues of child abuse for the victim can include depression, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, inability to form close relationships, feelings of worthlessness, and anger towards their attacker. These issues can be worked through with the help of a licensed therapist.