How Do I Report Child Abuse?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 February 2020
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Though the exact way in which you are required to report child abuse may vary among countries, and even from one state or province to another, you can typically make a report by contacting a local law enforcement agency or child protective service. While you may want to make a report anonymously, in many areas you are not granted this wish. You are, however, likely to be protected against civil or criminal charges when making such a report in good faith, even if the report turns out to be incorrect. In many areas, you may be legally required to report child abuse if you have a good reason to suspect such abuse.

To report child abuse, you can simply call or otherwise notify a local law enforcement agency or child protective service in your area regarding the suspected or witnessed abuse. This is a general rule, however, and local laws in your area may establish different guidelines. Whenever possible, you should consult a local law enforcement agency or attorney for legal advice specific to your area regarding how to report child abuse.

If you live in the US, most state and federal laws require that you report child abuse to a law enforcement or government child protection agency. Reporting suspected abuse to a parent or guardian of a child does not typically satisfy legal requirements for reporting abuse. This is because the parents or guardians you speak to may be responsible or complicit with regard to the abuse.

As long as you report child abuse in good faith, meaning you truly believe there is abuse, you are typically protected from criminal or civil action as a consequence of your report. The laws in most areas protect you from a lawsuit, for example, for defamation of character if you report abuse that turns out was not occurring. You cannot typically remain anonymous while reporting child abuse, however, so you should not expect anonymity after making such a report.

On the other hand, you are not granted legal protection after failing to report child abuse when such abuse is occurring. Many states and countries have laws requiring those in positions of authority, such as teachers, doctors, and clergy, to report any suspected instances of abuse. Some areas require that any adult who suspects child abuse must report that suspicion to a law enforcement agency or child protection service. One of the few exceptions to such mandatory reporting in the US is a lawyer who is told of abuse by a client he or she is representing, as this would violate the client’s legal right to counsel.

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