Letter: State needs child abuse registry
Re: The Detroit News’ Nov. 18 editorial, “Reject short-sighted child abuse list bills”: As sponsors of Wyatt’s Law, which creates a child abuse registry to protect children, we felt the need to respond and clarify what this bill package actually does.
Wyatt’s Law was prompted by a constituent of Rep. Sarah Roberts whose son, Wyatt, was severely abused by a repeat child abuser who had previously been prosecuted by Rep. Derek Miller. Wyatt’s mother suspected that her ex-husband’s girlfriend was abusing her child, yet she was unable to find a resource to find an answer to her suspicions. Our legislation creates that very resource so parents can protect their children from convicted child abusers.
The Detroit News stated that the Michigan State Police already maintains a list of people who have been convicted of child abuse crimes. This is true; however, this list is not a viable resource for parents and guardians. The News is referring to the Internet Criminal History Access Tool system that allows the search of public criminal history records. We considered using this system as part of our legislation, but ICHAT has several problems.
Wyatt’s mother had no way of knowing or finding out the date of birth of the suspected child abuser. This would be a common problem many people would face when trying to use ICHAT to find someone convicted of child abuse. The registry we created with Wyatt’s Law would be free to search and one would not need to know a person’s date of birth to perform a search.
The editorial provided claims we simply don’t agree with. First, that simple accusations or reports alone will put someone on the registry. That is absolutely false. Wyatt’s Law would only require people who are actually convicted of child abuse to be placed on the child abuse registry. This requires the highest burden of evidence that exists in the American criminal justice system. Second, that parents of abused children will be less likely to report child abuse due to their concern of the possibility of the abuser being put on a registry. A parent will not be inhibited from reporting child abuse when the well-being of their children are at stake.
We understand that some are concerned that this registry may cause social stigma or complications finding a job. However, we are more concerned with preventing repeat child abuse than problems the abusers may experience. If someone is convicted of criminal abuse of an innocent child, they should have to register to help prevent repeat abuse cases.
Rep. Vanessa Guerra, D-Saginaw
Rep. Derek Miller, D-Warren
Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores