Oregonian Editorial: Change state’s ‘physical injury’ definition to better protect abused children:

Truly looking forward to seeing a change in this statute. I would have liked to see SB 1556 pass this last session, but we’ll aim for the 2017 session.

It’s difficult to look at the photos of 1-year-old Jacob Marbury’s bruised face and not feel bewildered by the Washington County district attorney’s initial reluctance to charge the suspected abuser.

But as The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Emily Smith and Aimee Green have reported, prosecutors have shied away from pursuing several possible abuse cases involving young children in recent years. Why? Because bruises – even one showing a handprint as in Jacob’s case – don’t necessarily amount to “physical injury” in the eyes of the courts. To qualify, injuries must either cause impairment of physical condition or amount to “substantial pain,” a threshold that can be difficult to prove when the victim is too young or too intimidated to speak up.

Consider that in one case, a trial judge found that bruises covering the buttocks of a 16-month old were insufficient by themselves to show the baby suffered substantial pain. In another case, the Oregon Court of Appeals concluded in a 2014 decision that pulling out clumps of a woman’s hair also failed to meet the standard for “physical injury.” (The woman was a reluctant witness against the defendant, her husband). Is it any wonder that prosecutors are scratching their heads over what it takes to be considered injured?…

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