Pushing Other States to Toughen Up Child Abuse Penalties

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CONCORD, N.C. – Kilah Davenport is four years old and re-learning how to hold her head up. Police say her step father, Joshua Houser, beat her so badly he nearly killed her. He’s been in the Union County jail for two years, awaiting trial. If Houser is found guilty, he could spend six more years behind bars. Houser is grandfathered into North Carolina’s old felony child abuse sentence: four to eight years.

This week, it changed. Now, convicted child abusers could spend 25 years to life behind bars. And there’s a push to get other states to toughen up their laws, too. Congressman Robert Pittenger has introduced an updated Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act for federal consideration. The bill calls on the Attorney General to issue a report in six months that details, state by state, penalties for child abuse. Pittenger says in part, “This legislation will motivate states to address inadequate child abuse laws.”

“Yeah, it will embarrass them into having to re-evaluate what their laws are. And hopefully they’ll want to change that if they have any heart,” says Leslie Davenport. She is Kilah’s grandmother. When the little girl was severely injured, Davenport says, “I was ashamed at how lenient the laws were.”

She calls Pittenger’s updated child protection act “awesome”, and looks forward to forcing other states to better protect their children. She says, “It doesn’t matter your social status, your economic status, your religion, your sex, your race, it doesn’t matter. If you’re rich, poor, none of that matters. Child abuse can happen to anybody.”

A vote on the federal Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act will be scheduled this week. It’s expected to happen before Christmas or immediately after.