Child sexual abuse reporting laws need to be stronger

Sexual activity with children is illegal. The law REQUIRES healthcare workers and school personnel to report any suspicion of sexual abuse. Photo: What does teen pregnancy reveal?

WASHINGTON,  March 8, 2013 — Underage girls are being sexually abused and molested by adult men in numbers that are staggering.  This fact is shocking and more upsetting considering that current laws do not provide enough teeth to deter not reporting suspected abuse.

In all states, sexual activity with underage children is illegal.

Every state REQUIRES healthcare workers and school personnel to report the suspicion of sexual abuse of minors to Child Welfare or Child Protective Services type agencies or to the police.

Sadly, in too many cases, these reports are never made, and sexual predators are allowed to continue their abuse.

Anglicans Ablaze / http://tinyurl.com/bauodgv

Anglicans Ablaze / http://tinyurl.com/bauodgv

The good news is that the rate of teenagers becoming mothers is declining rapidly (as reported by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention).  The report detailed that the average teen birth rate in all states decreased 9% from 2009 to 2010, reaching an all time low of 34.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19.

Compare the above statistics now with these:

A National Crime Victim Survey, covering youth aged 12-17, estimated that 1.9 per 1000 children are raped or sexually assaulted.  Additionally, the survey indicated that between 9 and 28% of women say they experienced some type of sexual abuse or assault in childhood.

Clearly, the NCVS is way off.  It is a crime to have sex with an underage child.  An underage teenager giving birth is proof of a crime. Imagine what the crime statistics would reveal if all of those required to report the suspicion of the crime actually made those reports.

Among girls younger than age 15, between 60 and 80% are impregnated by adult men.

Further, according to Soundvision.com, 70% of teenagers who had sex before age 14, and 60 percent who had sex before age 15 report that the sex was involuntary.

The overall rate of teenage pregnancy is declining, but according to Teenhelp.com, the main rise in the teen pregnancy rate is among girls younger than 15.

According to Life Dynamics, Inc., which examined government sources, medical journals and abortion industry data, many abortion facilities fail to report in violation of state laws and in excess of 90% of the cases.

Life Dynamic’s findings revealed abortion facility workers openly acknowledged that not reporting was illegal and an awareness of the requirement to report suspicion of sexual abuse to authorities. Further, workers were commonly found to have counseled children on the telephone about how to avoid detection, including telling them to lie about their age, about their identity, and what to say and what not to say when they went to the clinic. In states requiring parental consent, workers gave information about those neighboring states not requiring such consent in an effort to help the child avoid detection.

Many abortion facilities are breaking the law. They are concealing a crime and allowing sexual predators to continue abusing children. Imagine your local store clerk helping your teen get around age specific laws on buying alcohol or a gun shop dealer giving advice to an underage teen on how to buy a gun.

The laws in the various states are absolutely clear. Suspicion is the trigger for reporting.  The laws do not require nor does anyone want healthcare or school personnel to investigate to satisfy themselves that abuse took place. The laws require reporting so the appropriate individuals can investigate and determine if the child is the victim of sexual abuse or statutory rape.

When an underage girl goes to an abortion facility or to a school nurse or counselor, inquiring about pregnancy tests or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or birth control or for abortion advice or information, reporting is absolutely mandated, because these inquiries can only mean the girl has been or will be sexually engaged.

Imagine a 15-year-old going to an abortion facility and begging the worker: “Don’t tell my parents, they’ll kill me.” This happens countless times per day all over the country. Yet the worker is required to report the suspicion of abuse.

Imagine the girl going to her school’s nurse or guidance counselor and asking for a referral, and the same type of plea for confidentiality. The school employee is required to report the suspicion of abuse.

Reporting laws provide absolute immunity from civil liability for those who report. There is no “down-side” to reporting, except for the possibility of exposing sexual activity by the girl to her parents. Clearly that potential down-side is far outweighed on an individual level if the girl is being abused and on a societal level because we want sexual predators stopped and taken off of our streets.

Mandatory reporting ALWAYS overrides patient confidentiality. Some might argue that if girls knew there would be reporting, they would not ask for help. The same logic says that if criminals knew they would be punished they would not commit crimes.

Underage girls who become sexually involved with adult men are significantly more likely to suffer life-long physical and emotional injuries as compared to girls who are sexually active with boys near their own age. 

These abused girls are more likely to:

* Drop out of school: only 50% of teen moms will get a high school diploma by the age of 22 and by age 30, only 1.5% of women who had pregnancies as a teenager have a college degree;  

* Abuse drugs or alcohol;

* Be estranged from friends and family;

* Be in physically abusive relationships;

* Run away from home; 

* Be lured into prostitution;

* End up on welfare: within the first year of becoming teen mothers, one-half of unmarried teen mothers go on welfare and 80% of unmarried teen mothers end up on welfare;  

* Become divorced if they ever marry.

State laws must make failure to report suspected sexual abuse of children sting. Only in Maryland, Wyoming and North Carolina are there no penalties (aside from a loss of license in certain instances) for failing to report suspected child abuse or neglect. In the 47 states (including the District of Columbia) with penalties, 39 classify failure to report as a misdemeanor. Authorities need a tool to address an obvious problem, institutions and individuals that cover up incidents of abuse.

In addition to criminal sanctions, the legal community is just now recognizing that those failing to report these crimes can be civilly liable. These criminal acts against young girls are no different in kind than the criminal acts of some members of the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts committed against minors. Perhaps after the fact, which is often too late, a large civil lawsuit award might change behavior if a criminal slap on the wrist will not.

Watch you daughter, please. The “helpers” in your community are probably failing you and her.

Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics.  Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, in Washington, D.C., on the Andy Parks show, the featured legal analyst for America’s Radio News Network, heard in 165 markets nationwide, and he is a columnist on the Washington Times Communities.

His book The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You is free to Maryland and Virginia residents and can be obtained by ordering it on his website; others can obtain it on Amazon.

Picture courtesy of Anglicans Ablaze / http://tinyurl.com/bauodgv


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Paul Samakow

Attorney Paul Samakow brings his legal expertise to the headlines from life and real-life experience to The Washington Times Communties. A native Washingtonian, Samakow has been a Plaintiff’s trial lawyer since 1980, with offices in Maryland and Virginia. 

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