Wyoming Pushing for increased Child Abuse Penaltys

No excuse for child abuseLegislative committee advances tougher child-abuse penalty

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A state legislative committee has moved ahead a bill that would double the maximum prison sentence for some child abusers.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 9-0 Thursday to advance the bill to the full House of Representatives to consider.

The legislation would change Wyoming law to punish non-aggravated child abuse by up to 10 years in prison. The current maximum is five years.

Aggravated child abuse is punishable in Wyoming by up to 25 years in prison. But proponents of increasing the penalty for non-aggravated child abuse say aggravated child abuse is a difficult charge to prosecute successfully.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, tells the Wyoming Tribune Eagle even severe child abuse often falls short of causing the serious bodily injury required to get a conviction for aggravated abuse.

“I’ve talked with at least 10 different attorneys who practice in this area, and not one could remember us ever prosecuting aggravated child abuse because the standard is too high,” Zwonitzer said.

Lynn Huylar, director of Safe Harbor, a nonprofit child advocacy center in Cheyenne, agreed that prosecutors will pursue the lower-level statute.

“The trauma has already been inflicted, and it is already there,” she said. “But holding offenders accountable is very important, because I think that people need to know that you can’t do horrible things to kids and spend just a couple years in jail while that child lives the rest of their life with the effects.”

Wyoming Department of Corrections Director Bob Lampert said about seven or eight people are sentenced to prison in Wyoming each year on child-abuse charges. He said inmates convicted of child-abuse crimes, upon release, rarely end up back in prison.

“This is at least some suggestion that the current level of sanctions is appropriate and is adequate to deter future criminal activity,” he said.

“As heinous as the underlying offense of child abuse is, the fact remains that once released from prison, and with supervision, this group of offenders very seldom returns to prison for any subsequent offense of any kind, including parole violations.”

Lampert asked the committee to consider the financial cost of lengthier sentences. It costs the state an average of $110 per day to incarcerate an individual.

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How to prevent child sexual abuse

Child Sex Abuse Prevention
Stop Child Sexual Abuse

BATON ROUGE, LA — Child porn is not an easy subject to talk about, but Noel Andrus thinks it’s time we all start looking at the bigger picture.

“You hear of gateway drugs, people getting into gateway drugs that lead to bigger harder things, and it’s kind of a good thing to compare it to,” said Andrus. “There’s a term ‘grooming’ that you’re familiar with that a lot of sexual perpetrators will use to children to warm up to the actual physical act of sexual abuse.”

Andrus works at the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center. She helps families of sexually abused children deal with the pain of abuse.

“It turns everything upside-down for a moment and to come in and have someone really just listen to everything you have to say, and for the child to have that moment to have their time to tell their story,” said Andrus.

The Center works with other agencies like Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana to work on protecting the children in our state. Executive Director Amanda Brunson said since child porn is a form of sexual abuse, it’s something we all need to pay attention to.

Brunson said it’s up to each one of us to prevent child abuse.

“Learn the facts and minimize opportunities, so that means really looking to eliminate all opportunities for your child to be with one adult and one child, or your child to be alone with an older youth. Also, it’s important to talk to your kids about their bodies, about sex, about boundaries and pay attention to adults that may be paying extra attention to your child,” Brunson explained.

One out of every 7 children are abused by the age of 18, and one out of every 3 girls will be sexually assaulted by age 18.

To learn more about their initiative Darkness to Light Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, just click the link below:

To learn more about their initiative Darkness to Light Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, just click the link below: