Lynchburg, VA - A new law marks a new day for child abuse cases in Virginia. Statistics say 30 children died from it in Virginia just last year.
Here's what got our attention about the new law: It doesn't target the victim or the abuser; it actually cracks down on witnesses to abuse called mandatory reporters.
You know mandatory reporters very well; they are teachers, doctors, police officers. Mandatory reporters are already legally responsible to report suspicions of child abuse to authorities. But with the new law, the penalties for not reporting are more harsh.
Veralee Craft of Roanoke County was 13 months old. She died last month after being rushed to the hospital with severe head trauma. The mom's boyfriend faces a child abuse charge.
"Obviously, people knew something was wrong," said Jane Francis, executive director of CASA.
Jane Francis runs CASA - a nonprofit that opens its doors and advocates for kids like Veralee, allegedly abused and neglected children.
"The cries for help were never answered. She never got anybody to intervene in an effective way to really stop the suffering that she endured," said Francis.
But now there's hope - a new, beefed-up law is on the books. It states mandatory reporters must report child abuse to authorities sooner - 24 hours - instead of the old law which stated 72 hours. Plus, the fine for not reporting a second offense of abuse is more harsh - 10 times tougher in fact. Now, the fine is at least $1,000. Francis believes the changes can help.
"So people pay a little more attention to it and realize that this is serious business," said Francis.
The new law is directed at mandatory reporters. But, reporting child abuse is more than one person's responsibility; it's the community's duty.
"We are less connected as a society. And we do feel like we don't want to intervene, but the fact is a child may be endangered if somebody doesn't," said Francis.
Francis says everyone 18 and older has a duty to report child abuse. And remember, you don't have to confirm abuse in order to report it. It's as simple as calling the Abuse and Neglect toll free hotline at 1-800-552-7096.