Also on Friday, a Detroit jury found a 32-year-old father of seven guilty of murder and child abuse for beating his toddler daughter to death with a stick wrapped in a towel after she had an accident, and then covering the crime up by claiming his child had disappeared after a carjacking.
There’s little evidence that incidence of child abuse as a whole is on the increase, though a recently released Yale University study showed a growing incidence of abuse involving children less than a
But it’s clear to experts in the field that major abuse scandals involving institutions like Penn State University and the Catholic Church have brought more scrutiny of child abuse, which in turn is being reflected in how authorities and courts view parental conduct.
“There’s actually little relationship between sentence severity and deterrent effects, but what’s much more important is that people have a sense that if they engage in a certain kind of behavior they’re going to get caught and sanctioned,” says David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. “And in both cases of sexual and physical abuse, there’s been a big increase in the sense that this is something that could get [parents] into a lot of trouble.”