On December 2, 2011, I met with Senator Bob Casey’s office in Washington, DC to provide input into his pending legislation. He had named it the “Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid (Speak Up) Act of 2011.” His objective was to make it mandatory that all adults be held responsible in reporting any child abuse they witness.
It was introduced on November 16, 2011 with one cosponsor (Barbara Boxer, D-A). It was to amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) as shown below:
- any recent act or failure to act, on the part of a parent or caretaker, that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, or sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm; or
- any deliberate act, on the part of an individual other than a parent or caretaker, that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, or sexual abuse or exploitation, or that presents an imminent risk of serious harm to a child.
It also directed the Secretary of Health and Human Service (HHS) to make grants to eligible entities to carry out educational campaigns and provide training regarding state laws for mandatory reporting of incidents of child abuse and neglect.
Senator Casey’s legislation was forwarded to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions resulting in no votes on the bill.
On May 15, 2014, Senator Casey reintroduced the bill. He had no co-sponsors and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions has not voted on it.
Child abuse and child neglect have been part of our country’s practices from the very beginning.
As towns and cities were developed across America, it was the great land of opportunity for white men. For everyone else, it was a nightmare. White men exacted stern control over Native Americans and blacks. All women and children were under their thumbs. This patriarchal system of power was firmly entrenched in our culture, sanctioned by law, and blessed by the church.
Extreme discipline was exercised within many families. Women were not to question their husband’s authority in anything, including his relationship with their children. Whatever happened under a man’s roof was private. Men were protected from prosecution for beating their wives and children because society didn’t believe it was the public’s concern if severe corporal punishment was used.
Churches reinforced that women were to be subservient to their husbands. This belief of supremacy of the father within the home made it a whole lot harder for women and children to get any support to stop the violence. It wasn’t until 1971 in Reed vs. Reed that the Supreme Court held that women, too, were entitled to equal protection under the law promised by the 14th Amendment.
Very little has changed in these belief systems since our country was founded. While women have many more legal rights, the home is still considered “a private castle,” and children continue to be abused and neglected.
This problem of abusive parental control at a child’s expense is criminal and pervasive in our culture. Children are at the total mercy of their parents, and far too often become the scapegoats for the ills of the parents.
While meeting with Senator Casey’s legislative assistant, I said even though his bill didn’t address the totality of the problem, at least it was some effort in making the issue more public.
I also made the point that all the media hype still does not talk about the tens of millions of adult survivors. We still remain the invisible Americans. When our Center for adult survivors of child abuse and neglect begins providing services the end of this year, though, this will be a visible reminder to all that we, as survivors, do exist and deserve compassion, support, and respect.
 “Supreme Court’s Decisions and Women’s Rights,” The Supreme Court Historical Society, 2000