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Child Abuse: Mandatory Reporters and Victims' Rights

Victims of abuse may be able to sue a church as a result of leaders' handling of the case.

KEY POINT 4-08. Every state has a child abuse reporting law that requires persons designated as mandatory reporters to report known or reasonably suspected incidents of child abuse. Ministers are mandatory reporters in many states. Some states exempt ministers from reporting child abuse if they learned of the abuse in the course of a conversation protected by the clergy-penitent privilege. Ministers may face criminal and civil liability for failing to report child abuse.

A Washington state court ruled that the state child abuse reporting law did not give victims of abuse a right to sue a church for monetary damages as a result of a minister's failure to report abuse, but victims in some cases may be able to sue a church on the basis of emotional distress as a result of how church leaders handled the case. A minor female (the plaintiff) claimed that she told a minister that her stepfather ...

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  • September 1, 2008

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