Which Reform is Better: Mandatory Reporting or Statute of Limitations?

| Feb 21, 2020 | Survivors - Resources & Help

You might wonder “Why the constant harping about fixing or removing the statute of limitations on child sex crimes? Why not just fix or expand mandatory reporting laws that penalize those who ignore abuse reports or suspicions?”

Here’s why. . .

First, mandatory reporting laws are rarely used. When was the last time you saw this headline on line or in your daily newspaper: “Counselor goes to jail for not reporting suspected abuse” or

“Nurse must pay big fine for keeping potential child sex crimes hidden” or “Principal is jailed; she didn’t call cops about possible abuse.”

(Despite decades of stunning child sex scandals, in which literally hundreds of bishops didn’t disclose – and in fact, actively concealed – pedophile priests, only one bishop has been convicted of violating his mandatory reporting obligation: Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City MO. A few others, in Santa Rosa CA, Manchester NH and Cincinnati OH, came close.)


So these prosecutions just don’t happen often. Usually, police and district attorneys focus solely on the offender, not those who could and should have stopped the offender.

Second, mandatory reporting law violations, when used, often result in paltry penalties. In some states, if you know or suspect abuse, are obligated to report it but do not, you can be fined a maximum of $1,000. That’s pathetic. (No wonder law enforcement is reluctant to bring charges like this.)

Third, prosecutors are often political creatures. They concentrate, at least in part, on building their careers and reputations. An easy way to do this is to grab the “low hanging fruit” – the offenders, not their allies or co-conspirators or enablers. That wins them votes. (Ask yourself: if your local DA could only go after one group, would you rather it be bank robbers or get-away drivers?)

Fourth, prosecutors often are (or believe they are) underfunded. It’s usually cheaper and easier to pursue street level drug dealers rather than the more sophisticated, careful drug kingpins.

Finally, ask yourself “Who is apt to be the most motivated to report and expose a child molester?” The obvious answer: one of his or her victims.

That’s why statute of limitations repeal is the most effective: it gives the most power to protect others and expose abusers to people with the most incentive to do so – victims.

(If there’s no statute of limitations on child sex crimes, victims have two effective options – try to get law enforcement to act OR get a civil lawyer to act.)

So let’s stick with what we KNOW works: removing or relaxing the statutes of limitations that prevent victims of sexual violence from getting justice in the time-tested, centuries old way most crime victims do: in the courts.

(Indiana has also joined the list of states working on SOL reform:


(More info on mandatory reporting laws is here: https://www.d2l.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Mandated_Reporting_07.07.15.pdf)

(And mandatory reporting laws sometimes cover violations that don’t involve direct physical contact, like ‘sexting’ and/or nude photos, https://www.southcoasttoday.com/news/20200214/when-must-school-district-report-criminal-sex-allegations-reports-of-nude-photo-disseminated-at-voc-tech-spark-questions)