Protecting Victims of Child Torture: Addressing the Gaps In US Criminal Codes

Scope of Problem

Child abuse is a significant problem in the United States. In fiscal year 2016 (the latest year for which we have national data), 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico substantiated 676,000 children as victims of child abuse and neglect. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that for the same year at least 1,750 children died from child abuse and neglect. Child torture is a documented subset of severe child abuse.

Child torture includes a combination of two or more cruel inhuman degrading treatments occurring for long periods of time, such as:

  • ·      intentionally starving the child,
  • ·         forcing the child to sit in urine or feces,
  • ·         binding or restraining the child,
  • ·         repeatedly physically injuring the child, 
  • ·         exposing the child to extreme temperatures without adequate clothing,
  • ·         locking the child in closets or other small spaces,
  • ·          and forcing the child into stress positions or exercise.”

In a number of states, some cases of child torture do not result in a category of serious physical injury that is required for a felony charge. Amending or enacting criminal codes to include a felony charge for these cases will protect child survivors.


NCCASP is currently engaged in the following activities:

  • Publication Analyzing State Codes, and Model Legislation – NCCASP released a 2017 report on child torture (“Addressing Severe, Systemic Maltreatment: Child Torture”) which reviewed the legislation in 50 states and D.C. to determine the extent to which the legislation addressed child torture crimes. NCCASP will publish an update to this report in 2018.
  • House Bill Highlighting State Issue – NCCASP is educating Federal legislators on the issue.
  • Draft American Bar Association Resolution – NCCASP is working with the  American Bar Association on a passing a resolution urging states to enact or amend state criminal codes to ensure a felony charge exists for all cases of child torture. 
  • State Education Campaign – Child torture victims exist in every state. NCCASP is educating  state lawmakers on their individual state codes.

National Database of Substantiated Child Abuse Allegations for CPS Investigators


There is no  national database of substantiated child abuse reports for child protective service (CPS) investigators to determine if a child has been abused across state lines.  NCCASP  is evaluating opportunities for integrating federal (e.g., National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Set), state and local data sources so CPS investigators and other front-line child advocates in different states can share child abuse data.

Strategic Change Network

NCCASP envisions a  Strategic Change Network to be an online forum that connects professionals working in the child protection arena to state, local, and national allies to encourage an exchange and sharing of best practices, resources and innovative solutions to improving the child protection system. NCCASP believes in leveraging the experiences of front-line child protection professionals and creating a forum for an exchange of these experiences and ideas to help develop innovative solutions that can save victims of child torture.