Virginia and Washington D.C. Consider More Inclusive Mandatory Reporting Laws

For immediate release: December 27, 2018

Lawmakers in Virginia and the District of Columbia are weighing proposals that would add clergy to the list of professionals required by law to report child abuse or neglect to law enforcement.

We support any effort that would compel more people to report suspected child abuse or neglect to authorities. Often, such reports are the best way to inform police and child protection professionals that a child is in danger and in need of help. At the same time, we would argue that any such proposal should not give special exemptions to situations where “faith’s doctrine requires the report ‘to be confidential.’” While such an exemption is intended to ensure the sanctity of confession, we are afraid that such an exception would allow church officials to hide behind technicalities and avoid reporting abuse even when learned of outside of the confessional booth.

As shown by the Charter of the Protection for Children and Young People, simply requiring that church officials report abuse is not enough. We hope that any proposal that is passed, whether in Virginia or in the District of Columbia, will contain strict penalties for anyone who is found to have held information related to child abuse instead of reporting it to authorities. Such penalties are necessary to ensure the authority of this much-needed reform.

CONTACT: Becky Ianni, SNAP Virginia leader ([email protected], 703-801-6044)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is

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  • Kathy Barr
    commented 2018-12-29 20:24:13 -0600
    so glad that my home town, Washington, D.C. wants to make it mandatory for clergy to report suspected child abuse.

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