January 12, 2009
Last week Central Florida News reported that a boy had been missing for 10 years. He was 11 years old at the time. His adoptive parents never reported him missing. The police are investigating.
The question is why did others such as neighbors, friends or anyone not report his missing either? Surely someone must have known or been suspicious.
It is a fact that most of us are reluctant to report abuse. There may be a number of reasons why.
We may be afraid to "get involved" because of the consequences such as making enemies, having to testify or even being sued.
These are selfish reasons. Furthermore, many do not know that all 50 States have passed some mandatory reporting law. Medical practitioners, social workers, law enforcement officers, school administrators, school counselors, psychologists, audiologists, teachers and clergy have a specific legal obligation, in most States, to report suspected abuse. Many states have broad statutes requiring "any person" to report. As to the fear of being sued, Federal law, (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act-CAPTA) gives absolute immunity, against both criminal and civil liability for anyone reporting abuse in good faith. However, failure to report may result in civil liability.
We may be afraid of reporting false allegations.
We should not worry about it. It is not for us to determine the veracity of the allegations but for the authorities. In 2006 approximately 6 million children were reported for abuse and of those 6 million reports, only 0.1 % was intentionally false.
We may also be afraid of being the cause of a monumental disruption in someone else's life.
However such a "life" absolutely needs such a disruption.
Once a suspected crime is reported to whatever authority, whether it is social services, clergy or even the police, we are no longer individually responsible.
Basyle Tchividjian, a former assistant State Attorney and chief Prosecutor of the Sexual Crimes Division is now the executive director of GRACE, (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.) He says: "We all have an innate duty to make known evil which thrives in secrecy and whose young victims are longing for us to step forward."
It will take courage but we all have a moral obligation to report such a suspicion. We should remember that we are "our brother's (and sister's) keeper" and that by reporting a suspected crime we may actually stop an on-going crime or even prevent a worse crime.
As Maya Angelou once said:
"History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but faced with courage, need not to be lived again."