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How To Report Child Abuse In NJ

This week Your Legal Corner discusses the importance of reporting child sexual abuse. 

Many enjoy viewing football on Super Bowl Sunday, where we celebrate and watch, as the champion of yet another football season is determined.  Yet, there are others who enjoy a different type of "Super Bowl", the Super Bowl of films also known as the Academy Awards. Here, who will receive the prestigious Oscar for best picture and a host of other awards is decided by the Academy of Motion Pictures.  

While movies certainly have the ability to entertain, they can also educate us with regard to significant events and social issues.  This year, the film I found most compelling was entitled "Spotlight".  "Spotlight" has been nominated for 6 Academy Awards. The film shines a light on the troubling incidence of child sexual abuse. 

Child Sex Abuse Statistics

According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.  Surprisingly, 3 out of 4 adolescents who were sexually assaulted were victimized by a close family friend or relative according to a National Institute of Justice report.

Importantly, these statistics are just estimates because so many victims of child sex abuse do not disclose or report their abuse.  A 2007 study cited by the Child Assessment Center reported that 73% do not tell anyone of their abuse for at least a year; 45% takes at least 5 years while some do not disclose at all.

Reporting Child Sex Abuse

In New Jersey, any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected must report this information immediately.  While some states limit who is required to report child sex abuse or child abuse in general, New Jersey law provides that anyone can report child abuse.  

Reports of child abuse should be reported to the State Central Registry.  This registry is open 24 hours 7 days a week and can be reached at 1-877-NJ ABUSE (1-877-652-2873.)  State officials will work with law enforcement to ensure an investigation is conducted and criminal charges signed where appropriate.

Whenever possible, reports should include the names and address of the child as well as the parent or person having custody of the child.  The report should also include the child's age, extent of abuse and any other information that is helpful in identifying the perpetrator.

Notably, any person making a report shall have civil and criminal immunity from any liability that otherwise may be imposed.  Conversely, any person with reasonable cause to believe that an act of child abuse has been committed who knowingly fails to report can be charged with a disorderly persons offense.

Warning Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

Typically, child predators prey upon children who are vulnerable and may not have the ability to report themselves due to personal or family problems.  Some warning signs of younger children can include nightmares, inattention, change in eating habits, bedwetting, sudden mood swings or development of new or unusual fear of certain people or places. 

Warning signs for older children may include self-injury, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, compulsive eating, running away from home, depression or suicide attempts. While any one of these factors may not mean anything, several factors should trigger further inquiry with the child. 

As we spotlight the Super Bowl of Films during this time of year, let us also be mindful of the duty to report the sexual abuse of a child.

Till next time, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will discuss  "Working with the lawyer to achieve your best result." Victoria M. Dalton is a dedicated Family/Elder Law Attorney with the Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio. Email correspondence to [email protected] or call 856-845-8243.

Please note that Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational material about the law and is not legal advice.

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