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Child Victims of Sexual Assault

HOW TO REPORT SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE

By June 14, 2018August 5th, 2018No Comments
Child sex abuse_ See something say something _ Koller Trial Law

Oklahoma Law provides that every person having reason to believe that child sex abuse has occurred shall report the matter promptly to DHS.  “Child” is defined as a person under the age of 18.  There are no exceptions.

What happens when you call to report child sex abuse?  

The trained responder will take your report about the child sex abuse.  You are allowed to be anonymous if you wish.  The responder will ask you questions about the child and about the abuse.  Since the standard is “reason to believe” you do not have to know a whole lot.

What needs to be reported?

The reporter has NO obligation to investigate the child sex abuse. The only information you must have when you call is what gives you reason to believe that abuse has occurred. This can be a child telling you that something has happened. It can be observed physical signs of abuse. It can be an inappropriate relationship between a teenager and an adult. Abuse is defined as physical abuse, neglect, child sexual abuse or exploitation, and emotional abuse. You do not even have to believe the child’s story. It is not the reporter’s job to assess credibility.

Who has to call?  

Every person who has a reason to believe there is child sex abuse.  So, the idea that someone else has already reported or that someone else has a responsibility to call is not sufficient.  Every person must call.  This structure is designed to eliminate the risk of “passing the buck.”

Within an organization, it is improper for there to be a “designated reporter,” because the duty to report is individual. Everyone who has a reason to believe there is abuse is supposed to call. The preference is for over reporting, not underreporting. For instance, in a school setting, a principal may not tell a teacher not to report or direct a teacher to let the counselor deal with it. All of these people should report.

There are no “safe harbors” for non-reporting. Even relationships that would normally be privileged – such as clergy, doctors, nurses, mental health professionals and lawyers – are not privileged for the purpose of reporting. The duty to report cannot be contracted away.

What happens with the child sex abuse report?  

A DHS Supervisor reviews the report to determine if it might meet the legal definition of abuse or neglect. DHS then will either refer the matter to law enforcement, do an investigation, do an assessment, or screen out the report.  

 

What happens to the reporter?

State law protects reporters.  No employer or other person or entity is allowed to fire or otherwise retaliate against a reporter.  If an employer or entity does so, they can be sued and the penalties are enhanced. Children who are harmed by retaliation may also sue.

 

What happens if you don’t report?

People who fail to report may be charged with a crime.  Additionally, a claim for failure to report may rise to the level of “negligence” and be included in a civil law suit for child abuse.  After all, failure to report is what enables repeated child sexual abuse such as what happened at Penn State, in the Roman Catholic Church, and with the U.S. Gymnastics team.

So, in the context of child sexual abuse – if you see something, you had better say something.  

 

Oklahoma’s Statewide 24-Hour Child Abuse Hotline:  1-800-522-3511

 

If your child has been a victim of child sex abuse, a civil attorney can help explain your rights. Contact Koller Trial Law today.