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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.


    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy


    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros


    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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Understanding the Different Types of Child Abuse


Child abuse and neglect falls under a variety of categories in Virginia. It’s important to be able to recognize each and understand what constitutes abuse and neglect in the state. If you suspect a child is being abused, or your own child has been abused by someone, it’s important to reach out to a qualified Virginia family law attorney. Our team at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy has a well-documented history of helping families through emotionally sensitive situations that involve child abuse and neglect.

The Virginia Administrative Code defines five categories of abuse and neglect. However, injuries fall under two categories: physical and mental. Virginia also recognizes the theory of threat of injury. Child Protective Services workers look at a variety of factors surrounding the alleged abuse, and may determine there was intent to harm even if no physical injuries were sustained.

Physical Abuse 

When people think of child abuse, physical abuse is probably the most recognizable type. Physical abuse can occur from a parent, a caretaker, or someone the child has contact with outside the home. It encompasses anything that was not accidental and causes physical injuries, disfigurement, and/or death. Common types of physical abuse include:

  • Asphyxiation
  • Bone fracture or sprains
  • Brain damage
  • Burns
  • Cuts, abrasions
  • Poisoning
  • Gunshots and stabbing

Exposure to certain controlled substances is also classified as physical abuse. Selling or producing drugs in front of a child can threaten the child’s safety, especially manufacturing drugs in meth labs.

Physical Neglect 

Another category of abuse is physical neglect, where the child is not provided adequate food, shelter, clothing, or proper supervision. Failure to provide adequate personal hygiene and cleanliness can be classified as physical neglect. Leaving your child without a proper caretaker can be considered abandonment. Leaving your child in the care of someone who is, or should be, registered as a sex offender can be physical neglect in some cases as well.

Medical Neglect 

If a parent or caretaker fails to get necessary medical, mental, or dental care, there may be medical neglect. This section doesn’t apply to the failure to obtain preventive care, and religious and cultural beliefs are taken into account. Therefore, determining medical neglect is very subjective, and each case is evaluated based on its own specific circumstances. 

Sexual Abuse 

While sexual abuse is also physical abuse, it is its own section under Virginia law. Sexual abuse can include sexual exploitation, which is where the parent or caretaker encourages or permits a child to engage in a variety of sexual scenarios, including pornographic photography and/or prostitution.

Mental Abuse or Neglect 

The final category of child abuse centers around mental abuse or neglect. Not all injuries are visible to the naked eye. Mental neglect or mental abuse can include a wide spectrum of situations. This type of abuse can result from ignoring a child to being overprotective. Bizarre discipline or creating an atmosphere where the child is fearful or is bullied are also classified as mental abuse or neglect. To qualify as mental abuse or neglect, the CPS worker has to get documentation that supports a link between a caretaker’s actions and the child’s mental dysfunction.

Retaining a Virginia Family Law Attorney

Every situation is different and it’s important to seek assistance in situations where you suspect a child is being abused. Our Leesburg family attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy are familiar with Virginia child abuse laws and can provide the legal guidance you need during a difficult time. Contact our office at 703-997-4982 to schedule a confidential consultation.



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Governor Northam’s Executive Order 53 provides that businesses that offer professional rather than retail services may remain open. Our firm is continuing to operate to ensure you and your family have advocates available for whatever legal issue you face. For clients who prefer, we can arrange meeting by Zoom or other video-conferencing. We are also implementing internal procedures to provide a safe environment in the office. Please contact us at 703-777-1795 or schedule an appointment today!