How Should You React If A Victim Does Not Want You To Disclose Sexual Abuse?

Police arrested a Florida high school teacher's aide who failed to report an alleged sexual assault of a student on school premises.

According to investigators, a female student had informed the aide that she had been raped. The student had also informed a school resource deputy about the incident. Investigators discovered the aide already knew about the abuse, but failed to notify authorities.

When interrogated, the teacher's aide admitted the student had told him she was a victim of sexual assault. He said he did not report the incident because the victim did not want it to be reported. Athina Morris "Pasco teacher's aide arrested for failing to report sexual assault allegation" ( (Feb. 23, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

Victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault, especially minors, often want to keep the crime confidential. Unfortunately, minors perceive a stigma (real or perceived) associated with being a victim from peers, adults, and society.

For this reason and others, school professionals, even aides and interns, must understand that they are required to report sexual abuse, even if the victim requests that they not report it or even if the victim recants his or her report.

Circumstances under which a mandatory reporter must make a report vary from state to state. Typically, however, a report must be made when the reporter, in his or her official capacity, has reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected. In other cases, the reporter may have knowledge of, or observed a child being subjected to, conditions that would reasonably result in harm to the child.

Mandatory reporters such as social workers; physicians; nurses; other health care workers; counselors; therapists; other mental health professionals; child care providers; medical examiners or coroners; law enforcement officers; teachers; principals; and other school personnel must report reasonable suspicions or face indictment for the crime of failing to report.

Specific penalties vary from state to state. Here are some of them:

  • In Florida, a mandatory reporter who fails to report child abuse can be charged with a felony.
  • In 40 states, American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, failure to report is classified as a misdemeanor or a similar charge.
  • For failure to report more serious situations, misdemeanors are upgraded to felonies in Arizona and Minnesota.
  • In Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, and Guam, second or subsequent violations are classified as felonies.
  • Upon conviction, a mandatory reporter who fails to report can face jail terms ranging from 30 days to 5 years; fines ranging from $300 to $10,000; or both fines and jail terms in 20 states.
  • In Florida, a fine of up to $1 million is imposed on any institution of higher learning, including any state university and nonpublic college that fails to report or prevents any person from reporting child abuse committed on the property of the institution or at an event sponsored by the institution.
  • In 10 states, penalties are imposed against any employer who discharges, suspends, disciplines, or engages in any action to prevent or prohibit an employee or volunteer from making a report of suspected child maltreatment.
  • In six states, preventing a report of abuse is considered a misdemeanor.
  • In Connecticut, employers who interfere with making a report will be charged with a felony.
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