Child abuse legislation - named after North Carolina's Kilah Davenport, and crafted to make sure states across the country are taking child abuse seriously – was signed into law by President Obama Tuesday.
Congressman Robert Pittenger, of North Carolina's Ninth District, filed Kilah's Act in 2013. The legislation will require the US Attorney General to issue a state-by-state report on child abuse prevention laws within six months, with a particular focus on penalties for cases of severe child abuse.
"Once again, I find myself battling mixed emotions," said Congressman Pittenger Tuesday. "This new law is a victory on behalf of children. Starting today, America is doing more to keep our precious children safe. But no happy, bright, little girl should ever become the face of child abuse legislation. Kilah's sweet smile should be lighting up birthday parties or dance recitals or melting her grandfather's heart."
Pittenger added, "Today we should celebrate, but also pause to remember the Davenports and the grief they have been forced to carry."
The goal, officials say, is to highlight deficient laws and provide states with the opportunity to fix those laws before another tragedy occurs.
"I thought it would be bittersweet but it's not. It's a joyous occasion" Leslie Davenport, Kilah's grandmother told WBTV when the law passed with unanimous consent in the United States Senate in early May. "I know Kilah is looking down and smiling, cheering and happy that we got this accomplished."
Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, introduced the legislation in the Senate.
"I am pleased that this important legislation has been signed into law," said Senator Burr. "The Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act of 2013 will help ensure the care and protection of our children. While I regret that Kilah did not survive to see her issue championed, her law will help protect other children. I also would like to thank Representative Pittenger for his advocacy and determination on behalf of Kilah's family and the abused."
Kilah's Act is in memory of Kilah Davenport, a girl beaten so badly by her stepfather in 2012, when she was three-years-old, that her brain never fully recovered. Kilah died in March 2014.
Her stepfather, Joshua Houser, was sentenced to serve between eight and ten years in prison. He was convicted in February, before Kilah's death.
Pittenger talked about Kilah and her family after the law passed the Senate. "Let us pause to remember sweet Kilah, her beautiful smile, and her brave fight against the horrific injuries she suffered at the hands of her stepfather. Let us also remember Kirbi, Leslie, and Brian Davenport, who sacrificed so much to care for Kilah and who have worked tirelessly to end child abuse."