The advocacy for “Wyatt’s Law” began when Wyatt Hammel, at one year old, was left in the care of his father’s girlfriend and shaken so severely that he was then hospitalized for nearly two months experiencing skull fractures, fractured limbs, brain swelling, and temporary blindness. The effects of this incident have had long-term consequences for the now three-year-old Hammel who lives with special needs and is now in school learning to speak. Wyatt’s mother, Erica Hammel, has said of the severity of his experience: “it came in as a homicide case because they didn’t expect him to make it.”
In light of her experience of nearly losing her son to severe child abuse, the Michigan resident began to advocate for legislation that would impose a child abuse registry similar to the one that is currently in place for sex offenders, something she is certain would have saved her son from experiencing abuse.
Hammel had become suspicious of her ex-husband’s new girlfriend Rachel Edwards upon finding out that she had lost custody of her own children, and proceeded to research the woman as well as she could, checking the sex offender registry and other resources to ensure that the woman was safe. Finding nothing, Hammel had no evidence to support her instinct and request that her ex-husband not be granted overnight custody of Wyatt.
Had the information been available, though, Hammel would have found that Edwards had been twice convicted of child abuse, and she believes that access to this information could have served as proof enough that Wyatt was not safe in his father’s care while Edwards was around. Because of this, Hammel proposed that a public database of child abuse charges should be put in place.
The proposed registry would require first, second, and third degree child abusers to register for ten years, and fourth degree abusers for five years. It would include a description of the perpetrator’s crimes, photographs, addresses, and names. It would imitate the established sex offender registry system and potentially prevent convicted abusers from being given access to more children.
While establishing this registry could cost an estimated $1.3 million per year, and there is no word yet on when the hearing will take place, lawmakers believe that it is very possible that this legislation will pass, perhaps even setting an example that the rest of the nation may follow.