Today, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) introduced the Speak Out to Stop Child Abuse Act (H.R. 3486), a bipartisan bill that requires all adults over the age of 18 to report sexual abuse against a child to law enforcement officials or state child protective service agencies.
Currently, only 18 states and Puerto Rico mandate that all adults must report child abuse to police or state government agencies. The remaining states either limit the mandated reporters to specific professions such as medical professionals, teachers or law enforcement offices, or only require an internal report to a leadership official within an organization. SOS Child Abuse Act would amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), the current federal statute that addresses child abuse and neglect and prevention response, by mandating a criminal penalty on an individual who fails to report witnessing another person engaging in sexual abuse of a child as well as restrict CAPTA funding from any state who does not comply.
"In light of the recent investigations at Penn State, my colleagues and I began to examine how to improve federal law to ensure that abuses against children do not go unreported," said Rep. Bass. "When an adult doesn't immediately contact the police or their state child protective service agency after witnessing a child being sexually abused, that child is subjected to further harm. My hope is that the SOS Child Abuse Act will prevent additional trauma by holding adults accountable if they witness a child being sexually abused. In addition, this bill will bring awareness to the disturbing effects of failing to act when these tragedies are taking place."
Rep. Bass introduced this legislation with Rep. Robert Schilling (R-IL), with other original co-sponsors including Reps. Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL). If passed, the SOS Child Abuse Act would go into effect December 31, 2013.