The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would make not reporting child abuse a misdemeanor crime. But concern over what constitutes abuse was the big question on Monday at the Capitol.
The bill would make it mandatory for anyone who witnesses child abuse to report it to authorities within 36 hours. That includes sexual abuse or anything considered “cruel or excessive physical or mental pain to a child.”
The bill makes an exception for clergy members who hear a perpetrator’s confession.
Republican Senator Renee Unterman, of Gwinnett County, sponsored the bill. She made it a point to distinguish physical abuse from corporal punishment:
“It’s not the child in Walmart getting a whipping from a parent. There was a case in Alabama this week about a grandmother who was punishing a child by making her run up and down the driveway and that child later died from exhaustion.”
Kirsten Widener, of Emory’s Child Law Center, says a law making people accountable can only increase the chances of keeping our children safe:
"There’s a good public discussion to be had about whether that’s a moral failure, or a failure of the law, but we certainly are supportive of the idea that taking care of our children, protecting children from abuse is everybody’s responsibility."
The bill would also put responsibility on adults to alert authorities if they are told about a child being abused by a reliable source.