Your Responsibility When Responding to a Child Sexual Abuse Allegation

Mar. 27, 2013 – The sentencing of two Oklahoma church workers to 30 days in jail last week for failing to report child abuse that occurred at their church serves as a stark reminder of the importance of complying with state mandatory child abuse reporting laws. The basis of the criminal proceedings against the church workers was an alleged 15-day delay between the time they reportedly learned that a 13-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by an employee of the church and authorities were notified.

While statutes vary by state, most mandatory child abuse reporting laws require an immediate report by telephone once a mandatory reporter has reasonable suspicion to believe abuse has occurred, followed up within a specified time (typically 24 to 48 hours) by a written report. Mandatory child abuse reporting laws and their applicability to church workers vary widely by state. Information on abuse reporting may be found on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website, provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Of course, reporting abuse to authorities is just one issue for churches to consider when responding to an allegation of child abuse. It is important churches have a plan in place for responding to allegations of abuse and that they follow that plan. To view elements of what an abuse plan may include, see our fact sheet on “Responding to An Allegation of Child Sexual Abuse.”

© 2019 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved.This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.