GA May Address Clergy “Wall of Silence” On Reporting Sex Abuse


Amid revelations that a number of officials failed to inform authorities about the Penn State child-abuse scandal, child advocates and prosecutors say Georgia's mandatory reporting law should cast a wider net to protect more children from being victimized by sexual predators, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The highly publicized indictment accusing former coach Jerry Sandusky of molesting children over 15 years already has resulted in more referrals to investigate possible child sex abuse, local child advocates said.

Under Georgia law, doctors and medical personnel must report suspicions of child sex abuse, but most members of the clergy are not required to do so. School teachers and administrators must also report their suspicions, but many coaches are not mandated to do so. Georgia lists 16 categories of professionals who must report suspicions of child sex abuse. The failure to do so can result in a misdemeanor conviction with punishment of up to one year in prison. The statute also allows — but does not mandate — anyone with reasonable suspicion of abuse to report it to authorities. DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James believes members of the clergy should be covered by the mandatory reporting law. His office has investigated two suspected cases of child sexual abuse at churches during the past year. “Too often, we run into a wall of silence. It's very frustrating,” James said. “In churches and other religious institutions, people do not have to tell about it because they're not mandatory reporters.”

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