Children’s Law Center’s Judith Sandalow testified before the DC Council’s Judiciary Committee at a public hearing for Committee Chairman Phil Mendelson’s Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Act, B19-0647. Read a summary below or review her full testimony as submitted to the committee.
In the course of serving more than 1,200 children each year, many of whom are already in or at risk of entering the child welfare system, CLC attorneys regularly work with children who are victims of abuse, including sexual abuse. The goal of the act is to encourage more people to come forward and report sexual abuse of children. It’s a laudable goal, but the act’s expansion of mandatory reporting to all adults will not achieve this. In her testimony, Sandalow noted that victims themselves may be more afraid to report their abuse to friends and family. Agencies will likely receive more false reports, subjecting children and families to unnecessary investigations and taking time and resources away from actual reports. And attorneys trying to uncover abuse may be hampered in their efforts because they would have to pass on allegations of abuse reported by their clients, even if such reporting were not in the client’s best interest.
As an alternate to the expansion of mandatory reporting, Sandalow encouraged more education. One approach educates children themselves. “Good Touch Bad Touch” is an evidence-based program currently available in 7 DC schools (down from 19 schools last year). A Massaschusetts campaign is an example of educating citizens statewide on how to understand, recognize and prevent child abuse.