Do Laws Requiring Prompt Reporting of Suspected Sex Abuse Do Much Good?


When the Penn State child sex abuse scandal emerged, public anger was directed not only at ex-coach Jerry Sandusky, whose trial testimony begins this week, but also toward the people around him who didn’t report their suspicions to police, Says the Associated Press. Many states have re-examined and expanded laws that require people to report suspected abuse or face civil or criminal penalties. Some laws apply to professionals like doctors and teachers; others apply to all adults.

Child advocates and academics are divided disagree on whether increasing the number of mandatory reporters will make the public more vigilant, or simply overload a stretched-thin child welfare system and siphon limited resources from children who need help most. Forty-eight states require at least some professionals to report knowledge or suspicion of child sexual abuse immediately to some authority, says the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eighteen states have laws that require mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse by all adults.

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