Imagine, hypothetically, that a junior co-worker comes to you, distraught, to tell you they witnessed a horrendously evil act by a senior colleague.

After you overcome the cognitive dissonance,
because it is hard to believe that your friend of several decades could do such thing,
what do you do?

This is a “nice guy”, you have known him since he was the hotshot young colleague, you are friend with his wife, know his kids; he is charming, affable, rich, powerful, generous.
He is prominent at The Club, he founded a multi-million dollar charity; half the lawyers in town are on the Board, they play golf with him, go to his $300 per plate fundraising dinners.

You know what to do: you are a Mandated Reporter by law
– you took the Mandated Training, there is a Process.

The process is important, because for so long these things were not reported, no one really knew how or who to report to. Fantasies of vigilante justice are cathartic but in reality just muddle the process and lead to the entirely wrong person being jailed for assault…

Now you must report, failure to do so is a misdemeanor.

The law is a bit opaque, fortunately large vulnerable institutions have a concise brochure (pdf) explaining your duties.

1) Mandated reporters: health personnel, educators or athletic coaches who come into contact with minors – CHECK

2) [You] are obligated to immediately notify the person in charge of the institution (e.g., head administrator) when child abuse is suspected.
The person in charge of the institution will make the report.
(If the person in charge of the institution is the suspected abuser, you must make the report yourself.)

3) If you have “reasonable cause to suspect” that someone is the victim of child abuse, you must report it immediately. First hand observation of abuse is not required.
NB Before 2007 the law only required reporting if you had first hand knowledge of the incident.

4) The head administrator calls the 1-800 number for State Reporting, reports to local police and attorney; then files written form CY-47 within 48 hours.
Oops nobody has form CY-47 (it is now on the web, as of about 2009 +-)

5) The designated reporter is not to initiate an investigation of the suspected abuse, and there may be no interference with any official investigation by the authorities.

6) The fact that a report of child abuse has been made and the content of the report must be kept confidential.

Got it?

The designated reporter (ie head administrator) will be informed of the resolution of the case in particular whether charges were founded or unfounded.

This may take time. A prominent recent case took 3 years for charges to be brought, after the victim came forward first hand testimony was gathered, and that was with the State Attorney taking charge of the investigation from local County authorities.

Not quite the intended consequences of the process, eh?

We are quite poorly equipped to deal with charismatic organised sociopaths.


  1. #1 Dave
    November 10, 2011

    a concise brochure (pdf)
    link is dead.

  2. #2 Steinn Sigurdsson
    November 10, 2011

    mungled URL
    Fixed now.

  3. #3 toyotabedzrock
    November 10, 2011

    Really the problem is that if prosecutor accuses someone the media finds out and ruins that persons life without regard for their actual guilt.

    This means the prosecutor can either go around charging everyone or go slow and make sure you know they are guilty.

    There is a solution to this, but America is to addicted to the news coverage and scandal to ever consider it.

  4. #4 Sarcastico
    November 11, 2011

    We are even less prepared, as a society, to deal with well organized sociopaths when they are part of a religious order. Either that, or we hold football coaches to higher moral standards than the bishops and cardinals of the catholic church.

  5. #5 Craig
    November 11, 2011

    oh, how I wish one particular religion had a Board of Trustees that could fire the pope…

  6. #6 Steinn Sigurdsson
    November 11, 2011

    they do, sorta,
    but if they did, it’d probably just be a powerplay to bring in their favourite cardinal from Florida…

  7. #7 Rob Jase
    November 14, 2011

    I did the right thing eight years ago & it cost me my career.

    Would I do it again?

    Honestly, I don’t know because the folks who were doing the illegal stuff are still happilly working in their jobs except for the one promoted to my job.

    And I’ve seen this happen elsewhere many times.

    This world isn’t ready for honesty.

  8. #8 Lab Lemming
    November 22, 2011

    Supposing you do report to your superior. How many years do you wait after that?

  9. #9 Steinn Sigurdsson
    November 22, 2011

    Good question: the most recent State investigation took almost 2 years, with the full power of the state DAs office; that was after several months for the locals to sort out jurisdiction and pass the accusation up to the State level.

    The person making the accusation has the right to know the disposition of the case.
    If no charges are filed, then, by law, they cannot talk about it to anyone and the records of the accusation must be destroyed within 15 months (IIRC).

    The Grand Jury transcript is not a complete timeline account of all that transpired – it is there to establish whether there is a case to answer.
    Local, unconfirmed, reports are that Paterno followed up with the AD on a least two occasions.
    There are also, in retrospect, indirect indicators that Paterno was displeased with what he was told regarding the disposition of the case.

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