Most states, including Connecticut, have placed laws on the books requiring that individuals who have certain roles in supervising and coming into contact with potential victims of child abuse have a duty to report potential cases of abuse to the proper authorities. But, in practice, what does this mean?
In previous blog posts, we have touched on who these so-called mandated reporters are, and they generally include teachers, day care workers, law enforcement officers and others who have contact with potential victims. But under what circumstances do these individuals have to make a report? In Connecticut, people with a duty to report child abuse must do so when they come across a situation in the normal course of their employment where they have a reasonable suspicion or belief that a person under age 18 has been abused, neglected or is being placed in imminent danger.
Readers may notice that this definition raises other questions about what constitutes a “reasonable suspicion or belief.” While a thorough examination of this legal nuance is beyond the scope of this post, suffice it to say that while courts do their best to create standards to give guidance to mandatory reporters, each specific set of circumstances may contain some gray areas. This is where victims of abuse may end up being failed by the systems designed to protect them. Sometimes mandated reporters are overworked, don’t have enough time with their charges to notice the signs of abuse, or are simply negligent of their duties. When this happens, children may remain in harmful situations longer than would have been necessary if the report had been made.
Child sexual abuse leaves scars of both physical and psychological nature. Unfortunately, many victims spend the rest of their lives being affected by the abuse. When mandated reporters fail in their duty, these effects can be even worse. While it will not heal the child’s wounds, holding those who failed in their duty responsible may aid victims financially, and perhaps help remind others in the mandated reporter position that their duties can make a huge difference in the lives of Connecticut children.