A new law aims to make a dent in the problem surrounding military child abuse and neglect.
The measure, known as "Talia's Law," was named after Talia Williams, a 5-year-old military kid who was beaten to death after being tortured by her Army father and step-mother while stationed in Hawaii. Talia's mother, Tarshia Williams, sued the U.S. government saying Defense Department officials failed to report suspicions that Talia was being abused. Talia's father, Naeem Williams, was sentenced to life in prison, while her step-mother was sentenced to 20 years as part of a plea agreement.
Included in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, the law makes it mandatory for anyone employed by the Defense Department to report to their base Family Advocacy Program "credible information" or "a reasonable belief" that there has been an incident of child abuse or neglect. The law also requires that a report be made to the appropriate state agency, regardless of whether or not the family lives off base. Although some news reports have said that the law requires military dependents to make reports as well, it does not.
This new requirement may seem like common sense -- after all, who wouldn't report military child abuse? But Talia William's case shows that is not the case. In fact, a series of reports from the services detailed in this recent story showed that time and again, those in a service members' chain of command, other military members or even doctors were aware of potential abuse but didn't report it.
That blows my mind. Why wouldn't someone report suspected cases of child abuse?
I imagine it has something to do with a desire to mind your own business. And although there has to be a balance, the need for laws like this one shows that everyone including military spouses can be doing a better job stepping up on behalf of the most vulnerable in our community.
I'm not saying run and tattle on your neighbors who aren't living up to your parenting standards. We've all had days where our kids were extra dirty, a little more snot-nosed than we'd like to admit and their diapers didn't get changed on the hour. But there's a big difference between minding your own business and turning a blind eye to real abuse and neglect.
Let's take a clue from this new law and the need for it, and do a better job of saying something when we see something is wrong.