MO Senator Proposes Legislation to Expand Child Abuse Reporting
COLUMBIA - A Missouri Senator proposed new legislation aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse. The bill would require anyone who witnesses child sexual abuse to report it to authorities. Currently, the only people who must report abuse include physicians, teachers, the clergy and certain other professionals. Those backing the proposed legislation include Attorney General Chris Koster who thinks the mandatory reporting requirement should apply to everyone.
The legislation would make it a misdemeanor if someone fails to report child sex abuse. It would also include a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
But not everyone is in favor of this bill. Some argue the legislation might increase the reports coming in by so much that it would be hard to get to legitimate cases of child abuse. Columbia's Rainbow House Executive Director Jan Stock said the concept of the proposed legislation is great, but executing it would not be easy for authorities.
"The units they have available to do those investigations are usually pretty busy, pretty tied up all the time. So if something like this causes them to have to divert their attention to another part of the case, it's just going to create more work for them," she said.
Stock explained Rainbow House serves nine counties and it completes an average of 35 forensic interviews every month. She noted how bogged down authorities are without having to track down witnesses.
KOMU asked Stock if she thought the legislation was in reaction to the Penn State abuse scandal and she said absolutely, but she added abuse has always been and still is prevalent in the community.