Child Abuse in the Public Eye

Q: Are celebrities treated differently when to comes to child abuse allegations?

Many Americans put celebrities on a pedestal and the couple formerly known as “Brangelina” are no exception. People obsess over the details of celebrities’ private lives—whether good or bad.

Recently, Hollywood power couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, were in the spotlight for an intensely personal matter involving their reportedly troubled marriage and allegations of child abuse against Pitt.

Shortly after a flight during which it’s been alleged that a potentially intoxicated Pitt verbally and physically abused one or more of his and Jolie’s children, Jolie announced plans to divorce and seek sole custody of the couple’s six children. Reportedly, Pitt’s behavior on the tarmac after disembarking the private jet led someone to tip off the authorities regarding the potential abuse. Pitt denied the child abuse allegations. An investigation, including interviews with the couple, their children, and others ensued. As a result of the alleged incident happening during flight, the FBI may have jurisdiction.

In California, child abuse is defined as any action that intentionally causes a child to suffer harm. Such actions may be physical, emotional, or sexual. Abuse can come at the hands of a parent, relative, caregiver, stranger, or other person, or within an institution.

Physical abuse of a child is “the willful infliction of any cruel or inhumane bodily harm or injury”. Such abuse would include but not be limited to hitting, slapping, shaking, or shoving. It is noteworthy that even if the harm is unintentional, it may still be considered child abuse.

Unlike bodily harm, emotional abuse of a child often involves behavior that is bullying, manipulating or humiliating to the child. Actions including calling the child derogatory names, threatening them with violence or abandonment, or demeaning or ignoring the child on a routine basis may all constitute emotional abuse.

All people have a responsibility to report suspected child abuse, but certain classes of people have a duty to do so. These “mandatory reporters” include teachers, doctors, day care workers, police, firefighters, and others, and they have to promptly report suspected child abuse no later than 36 hours of witnessing or receiving evidence of it.

If you suspect your child has been the victim of child abuse—physical, emotional, or sexual—the first priority is to safeguard your child. Depending on your particular circumstances, The J&Y Law Firm can help you obtain a protective order and pursue other monetary compensation to cover such things as medical and psychological treatment expenses, medication costs, compensation for your child’s pain and suffering—even punitive damages. And we do this with sensitivity to your child’s privacy. Contact us here or call (888) 806-6722 for a free consultation. We serve clients throughout California.