The House Judiciary Committee today approved the Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act (H.R. 3627), a bill introduced by Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) by voice vote. Since the majority of child abuse cases are handled at the state level, this bill will help to highlight how these cases are handled across the country by requiring the Justice Department to issue a report on the criminal penalties for child abuse in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. The bill specifically requires the Justice Department to look at whether the states, territories, and D.C. provide enhanced penalties when the victim has suffered serious bodily injury, or permanent or protracted loss or impairment of any function.
In addition, since there are some parts of the country where the federal government has an increased role to play in enforcing justice -- such as Indian Country and the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction -- the Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act helps to strengthen the federal response to child abuse, and all forms of domestic abuse, by allowing prior convictions for the abuse of a child to trigger the offense of domestic assault by a habitual offender.
The Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act is named after a three-year old girl from North Carolina who was brutally beaten by her stepfather in May 2012. Kilah was put into a coma and suffered a broken collarbone, a fractured skull, brain damage, and paralysis. Her stepfather was charged with felony child abuse and is awaiting trial. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. Pittenger praised today's advancement of this important legislation in the statements below.
Chairman Goodlatte: "Sadly, Kilah's story is not unique. Every year, over three million cases of child abuse, involving six million children, are reported in the United States. The vast majority of this abuse is committed by parents, the very people who should be protecting these children from harm. The Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act takes meaningful steps toward reducing the instances of this terrible crime while maintaining the states' authority to enforce child protection laws. I hope the House will take up this needed, commonsense legislation soon so that we can better protect our nation's children from abuse."
Rep. Pittenger: "In North Carolina, it took the Kilah Davenport tragedy for lawmakers to realize state child abuse laws were inadequate and outdated. We don't need to repeat the same mistake across America. This legislation will motivate states to address inadequate child abuse laws, and I appreciate the Judiciary Committee's quick action in moving the bill toward a vote by the full House of Representatives."