Definition of child abuse expanded under legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to expand the definition of child abuse to better protect Oklahoma’s children and hold abusers accountable. Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, authored Senate Bill 1773, which extends the crime to include anyone who engages in or enables child abuse.

“We must do all we can to protect our youngest Oklahomans. Current law fails to hold those who live with a victim’s parent or guardian accountable for committing abuse or failing to protect the child. We’re seeing more cases where siblings, boyfriends or girlfriends or other adults living in the home are committing these terrible crimes or stand by while it happens and don’t report the crime or help the child,” Brooks said. “This bill holds abusers accountable and goes a step further to include people in the abuser’s immediate circle who don’t protect the child, perpetrate this crime, or fail to report it.”

SB 1773 also defines “person responsible for a child’s health, safety or welfare” to mean a parent, legal guardian, foster parent or person 18 years of age who cohabitates with the child’s parent, or any adult who has physical custody or control of the child.

The bill, which was requested by the District Attorney’s Council, now moves to the full Senate.

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