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Child Abuse or Corporal Punishment? Knowing the Difference

Contact Attorney Jason Chan

Attorney Jason Chan

267 North Beacon Street, Suite 3
Boston MA 01235


Phone: 781-343-1DUI (781-343-1384)
Fax: 617-226-7986

Eduardo Montanez, 43, and his wife, Paula, 34, of CT, were arraigned in court after being accused of punishing their child with an electric shock collar meant for dogs.

The police were tipped off by an employee at the child’s public school after she notified the Department of Children and Families regarding suspected child abuse.

Both Eduardo Montanez and his wife are being held on charges including third degree assault, risk of injury to a child and cruelty. Many parents fail to realize and neglect the fact that their method of teaching their child a lesson may constitute a criminal offense because it involves the use of physical harm and corporal punishment.

When raising children, parents are likely to scold or punish a child in order to teach them a lesson or to deter them from developing a bad habit. However, parents must use discretion and be careful on how they try to raise the child. Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States . Unfortunately, the United States has among the worst records globally – where a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.

Child Abuse is considered a criminal offense in every state. To help deter cases of child abuse, many states have protocols and procedures for identifying and reporting child abuse. “Abuse” is defined as:

The willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, including verbal or mental abuse, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish or assault and battery to another person.

In Massachusetts,  anyone who commits an indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14 shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 10 years, or by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 21/2 years. Moreover, a parent doesn’t have to injure a child to be reported – as long “as the substantial risk of harm” is there.

Massachusetts lawmakers are aware of harmful effects of child abuse and how they can impact all of society. Officials of the state have passed laws that go as far as banning corporal punishment in public schools. No teacher or any other employee or agent of the school committee may maintain discipline upon school property through the infliction of corporal punishment upon any pupil.

In the Montanez case, the parents used corporal punishment on their child. The use of an electrocuting dog collar demonstrates the parents’ willful knowledge of the harm they are inflicting on their child.  If the case were tried in Massachusetts, they would be found guilty because they put their child in the line of direct harm.

The bottom line: abuse is not the answer. While the Montanezs’ intent behind the alleged abuse is unclear, it is a wake up call for all parents to realize and consider how they are addressing their children. Scolding yourself children can easily become abusive and unlawful if you take it too far.


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