Eleven years after five-year-old Talia Williams was tortured and beaten to death by her active-duty Army specialist father and her step-mother on an Air Force Base in Hawaii, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to send a bill to the Senate that would require Department of Defense (DOD) employees to report any suspected abuse on military bases or installations. The House voted by voice Tuesday to pass the legislation, which would require that individuals report it to both the state’s child protective services as well as to their military chain of command.
The legislation would be a somewhat significant break from the status quo, which usually only requires people working professionally with children, such as day-care providers or doctors, to report suspected abuse. In the 2005 case of Williams, several individuals, including military police, doctors and employees of the DOD’s Family Advocacy Program, neglected to report what appeared to be abuse. Under the House bill, all of those people would be required to report their suspicions in the future, according to Military Times.
Williams is not the only child who has been abused by a member of the armed services. A report issued in September shows that in 2014 alone there were 7,676 cases of confirmed child abuse or neglect in the military. That represents a 10 percent increase from 2013, according to DOD data. Neglect cases, which do not include physical or sexual abuses, rose by 14 percent in that time frame.
“It really did get our attention,” a Defense Department official told the Washington Post in September about the issue.
Williams' death, as it turns out, came during a year when the trend of child abuse in the military actually began to decline. That decline lasted from 2004 until 2008, when 5,406 cases were reported. The trend has been upward since.