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Sexual abuse reporting requirement passes legislature

Changes are likely coming to the sexual abuse laws of Illinois, right across the river from St. Louis, Missouri. The Illinois General Assembly has passed legislation to broaden the scope of the state's law requiring certain persons to report suspected child sexual abuse.

The bill adds employees of colleges, athletic programs and recreational facilities to the groups of people required to report suspected child sexual abuse under the state's Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. Health care professionals and school administrators are among those already required to report suspected child sexual abuse.

The bill was proposed in response to Penn State college football program scandal. The sponsor of the bill said that it will close a loophole in Illinois state law to prevent the same things alleged at Penn State from happening in Illinois.

The penalties under the bill are tough for those who are required to report witnessed child sexual abuse and fail to do so. First-time offenders are to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, punishment for which could be imprisonment for less than one year. Subsequent offenses are to be punished as a Class 4 felony, which includes one to three years' imprisonment.

Whenever provisions are enacted requiring reporting of suspected abuse, it is important that there be protections against false reporting. Allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault and other sexual offenses could be a powerful weapon in the hands of angry people bent on revenge or making an innocent person's life very difficult.

Fortunately, there are protections here. Any person who provides false information in connection with a child abuse investigation would be guilty of disorderly conduct under the bill. This should discourage disgruntled individuals from making false accusations to harass innocent people.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Il. Legislature approves Penn State scandal-inspired bill," Brianna Ehley, May 15, 2012

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