How Culpable is a Mother for Boyfriend’s Abuse of Her Child?

Cathleen A. Koch faces up to 14 years in prison for aggravated domestic battery and she didn’t even lay a hand on the victim, her then 23-month-old daughter, reports the Daily Herald. Her crime was far more passive: Koch, 30, of Elgin, stood by while her toddler was viciously beaten by her abusive boyfriend, and then helped cover his tracks when he tried to escape.

To be sure, there are mitigating factors. Signs point to an abusive relationship between Koch and her ex-boyfriend, James Cooper, 29. Koch’s mother testified that Koch had been in abusive relationships for about 12 years. Since the tragic incident in October 2010, she has sought counseling and has been an attentive mother to her other child, a 10-month-old boy.

On the other hand, who will protect a child if the mother stands idly by? Her psychological issues and pattern of becoming a domestic violence victim do not excuse the facilitation of her boyfriend’s abuse on her daughter. An expert testified at Koch’s sentencing hearing about the long-term effects of the abuse. Koch’s daughter will never fully recover, the expert said. She will struggle to become an average student. She can currently only speak in two-word sentences.

The actual statute that Koch has been charged under doesn’t, on its face, address parental liability for allowing a child to be abused. It merely punishes the abuse itself. However, the law has evolved through court cases, and has been expanded to cover these types of situations.

Ordinarily, the crime calls for up to seven years in prison. If the prosecutor can convince the judge that the crime demonstrated heinous behavior and wanton cruelty, the sentence can be enhanced to 14 years in prison. Cooper himself is serving 15 years for abusing the child.

Cathleen Koch’s sentencing hearing continues next week. The judge will have to consider Koch’s culpability in failing to protect her daughter while Cooper jammed his knee into the toddler’s back and beat her almost to death. But mitigating factors of a domestic-violence victim’s fear of reprisal and other related psychological issues may also affect her sentencing.

Related Resources:

More here:
How Culpable is a Mother for Boyfriend’s Abuse of Her Child?