Whether or not Mike McQueary told police of the alleged sexual
assault of a young boy, the Penn State scandal raises the issue of
how to handle such cases. Every US state has its own laws.
Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary's assertion, now
disputed by police, that he talked to the police after the alleged
sexual assault of a young boy by former coach Jerry Sandusky raises
the important question: What is the right way to handle such cases?
It turns out that every state in the nation has its own specific
laws on reporting the sexual abuse of a child. If there is any
unifying theme, it is that the person who has "reasonable cause" to
believe a child has been abused must notify law enforcement
officials and child welfare agencies. People who work in certain
fields or at certain institutions have to notify their boss, who is
then required to report the abuse, usually within 48 hours.
"Anybody may report it," says Carolyn Atwell-Davis, director of
legislative affairs at the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children in Alexandria, Va. "States want people who are in a
position to become aware of child sexual abuse to report" their
Almost every state also lists specific professions, especially
those licensed by the state, that are expressly required to notify
both the police and child welfare agencies.
For example, the state of Vermont lists 34 different professions
or jobs in which instances of child abuse or neglect must be
reported within 24 hours. This includes such professions as doctors,
dentists, nurses, teachers, librarians, social workers, camp
counselors, and clergy.
But Vermont is even more specific for certain professionals who
are required to report any abuse immediately. This includes 15
specific types of jobs such as any involved in medicine, hospital
work, teaching, child care, or social work.
Yet other states, such as Washington, include any adult who has
reasonable cause to believe that a child who resides with them has
suffered severe abuse. The state of Tennessee requires any neighbor,
relative, friend, "or any other person" who knows about sexual abuse
or has a reasonable cause to suspect it.
Some states, however, including New York and Pennsylvania,
require individuals in institutions such as schools to report abuse
to the person in charge, not the authorities. Then, the person in
charge - in Penn State's case, the athletic director and the
individual in charge of the Campus Police - are required to notify
the police and child welfare agency. …