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What Turns Corporal Punishment into Child Abuse in Las Vegas?


Children can be a rowdy bunch at the worst times. As such, parents are often compelled to discipline them to get them to behave. In normal cases, a simple warning may suffice; when things are starting to get out of hand, however, a parent may resort to physical means.

Corporal punishment is intended to better communicate a parent’s displeasure with a child’s current behavior, but more often than not, it just sends the wrong message. Taken too far, it can transform into a kind of domestic violence. How does corporal punishment veer into a case of child abuse?

What’s Child Abuse?

Child abuse is defined as willfully putting a child in harm’s way for any particular reason. If the act constitutes serious physical harm, emotional stress, exploitation, or outright death, it fits the definition of child abuse. Intentionally neglecting a child’s basic needs also counts as abuse.

Corporal punishment falls in a grey area as far as abuse is concerned. Generally speaking, spanking a child for bad behavior is recognized as a legal act. Ordering them to stay in their room for similar circumstances also works within acceptable legal limits.

How Punishment Becomes Abuse

It is, however, very easy to stray too far from disciplining and go straight to inflicting harm. Some parents may not notice that they’re already causing more pain and suffering instead of teaching their child on how to act properly. Any disciplinary act can become abusive:

  • when there is significant harm
  • when the act resulted in emotional or psychological stress
  • when the act is disproportionate to the child’s age
  • when possible sexual acts were involved

A possible record of previous abuse may come in as a factor, as well.

Defenses in Court

One can refute a child abuse case in court much like other domestic violence charges in Las Vegas. In many cases, the defendant may contend that the incident was actually an accident misconstrued as abuse, or they were only acting in self-defense. The former argument is often the chosen course of action, since the latter will be difficult to justify in court, especially if the other party is a child.

Whatever the case, these arguments work better for the defendant than claiming that the defendant never intended to hurt their child. This is contradictory as corporal punishment leads to pain, one way or another. Resorting to it means that the parent willingly chose an act that may lead to the child getting hurt.

Raising children to be upstanding individuals is a taxing process, and stress can be high. Still, this does not justify roughhousing a child in order to straighten them up. Nor is it worth the risk of a prospective domestic violence charge.

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