California Child Abuse Laws: California child abuse laws fall within the Penal Code, as they do in other states. The crime is broadly defined to include any type of cruelty inflicted on a child, such as mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual assault or exploitation, and neglect. Charges for physical child abuse often include assault and battery. Child abuse laws also include provisions requiring certain adults with access to children (such as teachers and doctors) to report signs of abuse. Child Abuse in the U.S. Generally speaking, child abuse occurs whenever a parent or caretaker physically, emotionally, or sexually abuses, neglects, or abandons a child. While parents have the right to raise and discipline their children as they see fit, laws regarding child abuse seek to protect children from serious harm. Child abuse in the United States is more common than many people think: Each year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made, involving almost 6 million children.