Is this fourth degree assault and can I press charges?

My step-dad just grabbed me and dragged me to my room when I was trying to get my bag from my sister’s room. I didn’t do anything wrong. Is this assault and will I be able to press charges?

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It is probably some kind of assault.

Before you press charges though, you’ll need to consider the following VERY carefully:

  • If you’re a minor and you press charges, CPS becomes your legal guardians. CPS will remove you AND your siblings from the house and place you either with a trusted relative or in temporary foster care while they investigate BOTH your parents for child abuse. From there, you will lose all control of what happens next.
  • CPS would represent you in court, following their rules. Your parents couldn’t get you a lawyer–they’d basically be prosecuting themselves, and there are all sorts of ethical problems with that.
  • If you press charges, they will launch a criminal investigation that could take weeks or months, during which time you won’t be allowed to live at home. If they find a criminal case, the state will go forward with it, and that could take a couple years.
  • As a minor, you don’t have the autonomy to drop criminal charges. Remember, CPS is your legal guardian and representative now. Even if the state dropped criminal charges against your stepdad, child abuse is still a civil matter with its own separate court system and rules. Even if you tell CPS you lied about the whole thing (which you didn’t), they would do an extensive investigation of your parents and home life before they let you move back home.

Basically, in criminal court, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your stepdad abused you before he goes to jail. It’s hard to take someone’s freedom away. In civil court, your parents have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your home environment is safe. It’s hard to prove your home is safe when you have given the state evidence that it isn’t.

I don’t mean for you to keep quiet about this and put up with an abusive situation, but there are other ways to handle this besides calling the police. I guarantee they won’t be leading him away in handcuffs, if that’s what you want to see. Try talking with your teachers or school counselor. They have a legal responsibility to take you seriously, and they know about the legal stuff better than either me, you, or most people on this forum.

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@Scarlette_Elle

SheetMetalHead is right, there is a lot to consider.

And your mother? Is she aware of what happened? Did she fail to respond?
Has he done this before? If not, has he been abusive in other ways?

My concern is whether this is an escalation. If he’s been abusive in other ways, and this is the first time he’s physically abused you, it may be an escalation. Which means the physical abuse could continue and get worse. I hope not, but you should be aware of the possibility. If this escalates, then you need to get help.

I’d write down what happened, and all that you remember and save this in case you need to contact CPS in the future. IF that happens, then you will have a contemporary record of the recent experience. You won’t need to rely on your memory, which will help them determine the ‘history’ of abuse.
If this is a one-off, and he ‘lost’ his temper, then I hope he’s acknowledged how Wrong his behavior was towards you. While I caution you, you alone are aware of the threat level your step father imposes, and you I’m sure will know the right thing to do. I’m so sorry you’ve experienced this, and I truly hope it was a one time event. You take good care of yourself, and keep checking in so we know you’re okay. Peace :heart:

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Hey @Scarlette_Elle,

It will be difficult to give you legal advice as no one here is officially qualified or trained for it. It’s important to keep in mind that you can’t receive legal counseling on this forum.

However, you’ve shared about your situation at home through multiple posts and I’d like to reiterate what was said and the steps you were encouraged to take:

  • There seems to be a certain type of abuse happening at your home, and if not physical at least emotional abuse.
  • You are strongly encouraged to reach out to CPS and talk about what’s going on with your parents, both for you and your siblings. If it’s too difficult for you, you can ask a counselor (at school for example) to guide and support you through this process. You don’t have to do this alone.
  • If you are not safe at home right now, please don’t hesitate to call the police. Even as a minor, you have the absolute right to call them so you can be protected and safe as soon as possible.
  • If you don’t know where to start and if you don’t have access to a counselor, you can start by reaching out to a helpline, such as: https://www.childhelp.org/hotline/ - People there will be able to give you the information you need and eventually redirect you to different services, depending on which state you live.
  • If you feel suicidal again and at the point of hurting yourself, please call a crisis line as well: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ - Your life matters and you deserve to be supported in times of crisis.

I know those are some very scary steps but we’ll be by your side through all of this to support you the best way we can. Not so long ago you mentioned looking after a family member to reach out to, and you considered the possibility of calling CPS. Did you give it a try/did you find someone to talk to?

We hear you. You’re not alone. :hrtlegolove:

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Oh, my mother works at a law firm and knows a thing or two. She told me that she would be the one pressing charges on my behalf if anyone ever assaulted me, and would be kinda pissed if I told her that what he did was not a form of punishment and was in fact assault. I want to tell her but I know she really loves him and I don’t want to get in the way.

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