Child Abuse: Texas Law

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Child Abuse, Defined

Child abuse covers a broad range of injustices that can be done to a child. Abuse can be physical, sexual, or psychological. It can also include neglect. Those who should be looking out for the child’s welfare include:

  • Parent
  • Foster parent
  • Person who lives with the child’s parent
  • Guardian
  • Employee or volunteer at the child’s school
  • Employee or volunteer at the child’s daycare facility

While the above list includes those who traditionally provide care to the child, the state requires anyone with knowledge that points to child abuse or neglect to report it to authorities. In fact, this reporting requirement is mandatory and must be observed by everyone, including doctors or lawyers, who are customarily allowed privileged secrets because of their professions.

Injury to a Child

Injury can be done to a child in a mental or emotional capacity. Emotional and mental injury can have a marked effect on the child’s psychological or physiological growth. The child’s caregiver can be accused of administering mental or emotional injury, or allowing the child to be subjected to another party that subjects the child to emotional or mental abuse without putting a stop to the abuse.

A child can be physically injured as well. Physical injury is more than just a normal punishment administered; it causes a great deal of bodily harm to the child. Again, a child can be subjected to physical abuse or threats of physical abuse from a primary caregiver or another party. A primary caregiver could be charged with abuse if they were aware another party was abusing the child and they did nothing to stop it.

Indecency with a Child

A person who comes into contact of a sexual nature with a child, such as fondling or groping, can be charged with indecency with a child. If a person coerces the child to engage in sexual conduct, that person can still be charged. Additionally, you can be charged with indecency if the child is younger than 17, whether you knew the child’s age or not.

Indecency is a 2nd-degree felony offense, which means the court can fine you up to $10,000 or put you in a state prison facility for anywhere from 2 to 20 years. The court can also decide to apply both the fine and prison sentence as your punishment. If you exposed yourself to a child or had the child expose themselves to you, and no actual physical contact was made between you, the charge could get downgraded to a 3rd-degree felony. It’s important to note, however, that a 3rd-degree felony is still a very serious charge – it carries a fine of up to $10,000 and a possible sentence of 2 up to 10 years in a state prison.

Sexual Assault of a Child

Sexual assault of a child can involve sexual contact as described above, and can also refer to penetration or intercourse with a child. Sexual assault on a child is a 2nd-degree felony offense.

Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child

When a child who is younger than 14 is sexually assaulted, it is automatically considered aggravated sexual assault. Sexual assault of children aged 14 or older is considered aggravated if:

  • The person committing the assault hurts or attempts to kill the child during the assault.
  • The person committing the assault displays a deadly weapon and either threatens to use it or uses it during the assault.
  • The person committing the assault threatens to harm, kill, or kidnap the child.
  • The child overhears the person committing the assault say they will harm, kill, or kidnap another person.
  • The person committing the assault colludes with another party so that the other party may also assault the child.

Aggravated sexual assault of a child is considered a 1st-degree felony, which can result in a punishment of a fine up to $10,000, a term in the state prison for anywhere from 5 to 99 years, or both. Those convicted of aggravated sexual assault automatically receive a prison sentence of at least 25 years if:

  • The child was less than 6 years old.
  • The child was under 14 and the person committing the assault injured or attempted to kill the child.


Neglect of a child can include many actions as well as the absence of actions. For example, if a primary caregiver leaves a child in, or fails to remove a child from, an environment where the child has a considerable chance of suffering from mental or physical harm, that caregiver can be charged with neglect.

Other instances that could be considered neglect include:

  • Failure to provide adequate medical care for the child.
  • Failure to provide food, water, or clothing for the child.
  • Failure to provide adequate shelter for the child.
  • Failure to provide adequate care for the child within the home (such as hiring a sitter when the primary caregiver cannot be present.)
  • Allowing the child to be in (or failing to remove a child from) a situation that requires practical thinking or actions that are above the maturity level of the child.
  • Allowing the child to be in (or failing to remove the child from) a situation where the child could be exposed to sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, or indecency.
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