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If Child Custody Is At Stake
If you are a parent and the person you suspect is your spouse or ex-spouse or your ex-spouses’ partner, and child custody is an issue – before reporting, call Mothers Against Child Sexual Abuse www.againstsexualabuse.org for a free phone consultation or contact Jewish Community Watch for assistance. The founder of Mothers Against Child Sexual Abuse’s book, “Childhood – It Should Not Hurt!” details the complicated issues of reporting & custody battles when sexual abuse is a factor.
First off – you only need reasonable suspicion to report. You do not need solid evidence. Before anything and as soon as you suspect something – Do not ask the child any questions. The professionals investigating will fear that you may unintentionally influence the child’s report and this can lead to issues with them believing the child is telling the truth.
Be ready to document everything you do during this process. Dates/times, get report numbers and copies of all paperwork that is available to you.
If the perpetrator is a family member, an ex-husband, etc., you must be extremely careful. Some social workers are trained to be more suspicious of these reports because of the increased number of potentially “false claims” against a spouse. You need to show them that you’re not doing this out of spite.
In MA there is a series of interviews that a child advocacy center will have with the victim in order to give them the best chance of reporting their abuse properly and truthfully. This is extremely important with young victims. You, as the reporter, must advocate for their communication needs. Understand what your options are when it comes to how and when your child is being interviewed.
If the investigation seems to be mishandled or isn’t going anywhere, you have options:
The Facts On Reporting And The Process
All 50 states require professionals to report reasonable suspicion of child sexual abuse.
Here is a link that specifies the laws of each state for anyone who suspects abuse: Child Welfare State Statutes
Here is a link that specifies each state’s definition of all forms of child abuse & neglect: Child Welfare State Definitions
An Overview Of The Reporting Process From Child Welfare Information Gateway:
A Victim-Centered Approach –
Professionals often feel pulled in several directions in their work on child sexual abuse cases. Although most professionals want to help the victim, potentially competing concerns include the feeling that sex offenders should be punished, a concern that the offender may be dangerous to others, a belief that sexual abuse is a mental health problem, a concern about the impact of disclosure upon the mother, a belief that the mother is partly responsible for the abuse, an awareness of the effect of sexual abuse and intervention on non-victim siblings, and a feeling that everyone in the family needs help.
Taking a victim-centered approach is a way of dealing with conflicting goals in sexual abuse intervention. A victim-centered approach is one in which considerations of what is in the victim’s best interest override competing concerns.
What is in the victim’s best interest? That may vary depending on the case and it may not always be easily discernible. Ascertaining the victim’s best interest usually begins by finding out what the victim wants to happen, the older the child the more weight given to the victim’s wishes. Does she want to be removed from the home or have the offender removed? Does she want the offender to be prosecuted or to get some help? Of course, there are times when what the victim wants is not in her best interest, because it risks her safety or psychological well-being. In such cases, the child’s best interest should be pursued, but with a developmentally appropriate explanation to the child about why her wishes cannot be granted.
Strategies for Ensuring That Intervention Is in the Victim’s Best Interest
When an investigation substantiates child sexual abuse, professionals must decide what to do. Basic issues for the child are safety and rehabilitation. In addition, decisions about the use of the courts to protect the child and to prosecute the offender impinge heavily on the child’s well being. Related to these issues are questions about family separation. Does the family remain intact, does the offender leave or is the child removed? Professionals agree that it is preferable to remove incest offenders from the home. However, there are cases in which, to protect the child, to prevent her/his psychological abuse, or to relieve the victim of the experience of family turmoil, the child needs to be placed outside the family. If the family has been separated, the question of family reunification has to be addressed.
There are two basic strategies that can enhance the probability that case decisions will be made in the child’s best interest. The first has already been mentioned: the child should be asked what she/he wants. Secondly, case decisions should be preceded by a careful assessment and should be made in consultation with a multidisciplinary team, whenever feasible.
Two agencies handle most reports of child abuse:
Sections on this page have been adapted from: TheMamaBearEffect
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