Legislation introduced in the Delaware General Assembly would create the crime of child abuse and imposes tough penalties on those who abuse a child with an intellectual or developmental disability.
The measure sets the criteria for first, second and third-degree child abuse. “Currently, Delaware law allows us to prosecute these cases under the statute of ‘assault by abuse or neglect’ or sometimes ‘endangering the welfare of a child,'” Attorney General Beau Biden said at a news conference in Dover Wednesday. “Far too many children are victims of abuse, neglect or assault and these statutes will go a long way to better protecting children in this state.”
As specified in the bill:
First-degree child abuse would carry a maximum prison term of 25 years for someone convicted of recklessly or intentionally causing serious physical injuries to a child.
Second-degree child abuse would impose up to two years in prison for someone found guilty of injuring a child less than three years old or a child with a significant intellectual or developmental disability.
Third-degree child abuse would impose up to one year in prison and a fine of $3,200 for someone who causes physical injury to a child.
“Each year, we are told that 1,700 children, most under the age of four, die at the hands of an abuser,” state Senator Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, said. “I think we have a special duty to do everything in our power to change that.”
State Rep. Rebecca Walker, D-Middletown, said, as a nurse for 12 years, she has often had to care for abused or neglected children. “We see a lot of child abuse in the emergency departments. It’s not something that’s going to go away, but this helps get us the tools that [law enforcement officers] need to prosecute this,” Walker added.
According to Biden, more than three million children across the United States are reported annually to be victims of abuse or neglect.