June 25, 2018

Failure to Report Sexual Abuse - Who Cares?

This week, David Pittman brings to light the abhorrent laws (or lack thereof) that let mandatory reports off the hook.


I’m grateful for my wife Linda for many things. Not the least of which, is how she gets me to look at things from another perspective.

One day in the midst of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case, she asked me this question.

"What happens when a Mandated Reporter fails to report?"

Not having the answer, I did some research. What I found should make you sick.

I’ve heard for years about the importance of "Mandated Reporters" and how these laws did so much to protect children.

In reality, this simply is NOT true.

Larry Nassar/Michigan State University/USA Gymnastics is the latest example of the ineffectiveness of Mandatory Reporter laws.

At least 7 Mandatory Reporters in the Larry Nassar case failed to report after being told he was sexually assaulting little girls.

Michigan Youth Sports Coach, Kathie Klages – 1997
MSU Coach, Kelli Bert - 1999
MSU trainer, Lianna Hadden - 2000
MSU trainer, Destiny Teachnor-Hauk – 2000
MSU psychologist, Dr. Gary Stollak – 2004
Sports Medicine Department, Dr. Jeffrey Kovan – 2014
MSU's Office of Institutional Equity, & Current Attorney for MSU, Kristine Moore – 2014

And guess what happens to these folks for failing to report due to the law in Michigan?

Michigan Failure to Report Comp. Laws § 722.633(1), (2)

A mandatory reporter who knowingly fails to report as required is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by one or both of the following:

• Imprisonment for not more than 93 days
• A fine of not more than $500

In other words…NOTHING!

I have researched every place I know to look and have found nothing stating that any of these people were even charged with a misdemeanor.

And even if they were, maybe 90 days in jail and maybe a $500 fine…are you kidding me?!?!

The laws for failure to report, across the country, are as pathetic as the Statue of Limitation laws.

So we can be clear about this topic:

A mandated reporter is a person who, because of his or her profession, is legally required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to proper authorities.

Notice it doesn’t say; report to the school, report to the church, etc. The law says report to proper authorities – that means law enforcement, period.

The official designation of which professions are considered mandated reporters varies somewhat from state to state. In most cases, the definition concerns anyone who works with children or the elderly. This typically includes social workers, teachers, health care workers, child care providers, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and other educators and medical professionals. There are some states that consider all citizens as mandated reporters.

Approximately 48 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands impose penalties on mandatory reporters who knowingly or willfully fail to make a report when they suspect that a child is being abused or neglected.

In Florida, a mandatory reporter who fails to report as required by law can be charged with a felony.

Sounds encouraging right? Wrong! Because that’s not the full truth.

As a matter of fact: Maryland, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico currently do not have statutes imposing criminal penalties for failure to report. Delaware has a civil law but no criminal prosecution. Hawaii’s law calls it a "petty" misdemeanor, same as littering.

And, failure to report is classified as only a misdemeanor in 40 States, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But don’t take my word for it, read here what your state deems as worthy of punishment for those who are Mandatory Reporters, know or suspect someone is abusing a child and fails to protect that child.

We are failing to protect our children.

In essence, it’s a slap on the wrist if they are even charged. From what I’ve discovered, it appears that virtually none of the mandatory reporters who fail to report are EVER charged with anything.

It seems both pointless and arrogant to point out a problem without offering a solution. We have enough people doing that I think.

So, what’s the answer here? You’re not going to like it because it’s not a "interesting" answer.

We are.

We elect our Representatives and Judges.

(Wait, Wait, Wait! I can hear you yawning now and getting ready to click that mouse elsewhere – but please give me one more moment)

Our Representatives won’t do anything until they hear from you. Until they know what matters to you. Letters, emails and phone calls. Letters, emails and phone calls. Not "interesting" and no fanfare, but it works. 

Or if you have contacts with your local media, then rattle their cages until they do news reports on why your Representatives aren’t making changes to the law and why your Judges aren’t prosecuting to the fullest.

Remember, YOU elect both Judges and Representatives. They have the power you give them.

So, I’ll ask the same questions I’ve been asking all month.

Does this matter to you?

If so, what are you prepared to do?


David is the Executive Director of Together We Heal. Its purpose is to provide guidance for those who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. It works to educate through public speaking, collaborates with other groups to raise awareness and expose sexual predators and their methods.

In 2015, David was asked by Boz Tchividjian, founder of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to become part of their Child Safeguarding Certification team. The mission of GRACE is to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize, prevent, and respond to child abuse.

David represents TWH & GRACE all across the country as a public speaker and instructor, teaching churches, schools and families how to talk with their kids about sexual abuse, how to better identify predatory behavior and sexual predators grooming methods.

For more information on GRACE Child Safeguarding Certification please email certification@netgrace.org

Or you may email me at dpittman@together-we-heal.org if you’d feel more comfortable.

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