LIONEL PODCAST: More Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Is An Old And Insane Response To Sandusky

Patriotism. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.
Ambrose Bierce

Prolegomenon. Akin to this is the dime store moralist and tripwire reactionary, the dimensionless sockpuppet who projectile fires barstool hamfisted blather as to how to handle this Jerry Sandusky character and his ilk. “By Gawd, I know how to fix this sitchee-ashun!” Nice try, Sparky. You’ll meet this feller or the more usual and frequent: the guy who says, “If I ever saw some man bugger a child, I’d kill that sucker with my bare hands! On the spot!” No you wouldn’t; that’s not the way it works. What most people experience who encounter that, in the extremely rare occasion, is a slack-jawed paralyzing astonishment. It’s an old issue and has been bandied about for years by legions of the unimaginative.

What about §81.4. Rules of Professional Conduct? The Pennsylvania Code seems pretty clear about this provision. I wonder if Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly heard about it. I have my doubts after her press release.

Rule 3.8. Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor.

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:

(e)  except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused and exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6 or this Rule. [E.S.]

The nomenclature of abuse. The term ephebophilia is the sexual preference for adolescents around 15-19 years of age. In everyday parlance, the term pedophilia (or paedophilia), strictly describing a sexual attraction to prepubescent children, is also colloquially used to refer to attraction to adolescents. Pederasty is sexual relations between two males, especially when one of them is a minor. Note the nuance of definition: attraction, preference, act.

Lionel’s suggestions, admonitions and critical analysis. There will be a test.

  • Don’t even think of passing more laws. It’s the first knee-jerk reaction that just clogs up an already juridically constipated system. “There ought to be a law” is the refrain that we’ve got to remove from our patellar quiver. This is usually the first reaction from the well-intended but frightfully legally nescient. My PIX 11 blog expands upon this theme.
  • Don’t even think of giving us another ___’s Law. Megan’s Law. Caylee’s Law. Amber Alerts. The only names for laws should apply to physics and science in general. Eponymous victim laws are campaign tricks and publicity stunts used by unscrupulous and unimaginative pols or the No-Scheiße polemicist.
  • Concentrate your attention as well on the falsely accused and prosecuted. And there will be even more than there already are. These victims are never mentioned what with the yelling and screaming for more laws and prosecution. If you really want to see the enormity of this, look no further than divorce cases. False accusations to gain position and sway in custody matters are through the roof. Sexual abuse registries, the “hit parade,” offer no due process means to remove names.
  • Some kids are most savvy to the mechanics of false claim maelstroms. They know exactly the score. They’ll tell parents boldly that if they wish to, all they have to do is pick up the phone and ring CPS.
  • Become as conversant in the mechanics of pedophile predation as you are peanut allergies. If I hear one more health expert talk about peanut allergies, I swear I’ll take a life. Look, I’m not trying to minimize the problem, but if just a portion of the energy of learning about nut-based anaphylaxis went to pedophile predation, more cases could be prevented altogether.
  • Vaccinate your children from ignorance. It’s their nescience that will hurt them. They’re tougher than you think. You’ve simply got to level with your kids.
  • Declare a war on pedophilia. Just as we did a war on terrorism and drugs. But this time our target is very easily defined.
  • Utilize this Bib Sis mentality in protecting kids. Use the technological genius of DHS and that which inspires it and direct it to ferreting out the abuser. But there’s no money in that so let’s move to the next step.
  • Start asking what keeps a parent quiet for so many years. I simply don’t get it. The growing number of children who will be included in victim rosters means that scores of parents and families kept this quiet for years. Why? Do you mean to tell me after the litigious frenzy of suing the Catholic Church the public wasn’t hip to the money available in settling a case against Penn State?!
  • We have to be more suspect of Little League coaches, Boy Scout leaders, clergy — anyone with access to kids. Especially those who volunteer who are without kids. Or single. Red flag. Big time. Sorry, but we know that that’s where child predators bait the field.
  • Goodbye sleep-overs and camping with others. Adios! It’s a new era. Remember the parents who let their kids stay with Michael Jackson? Michael Jackson?! Who are these parents that let kids go alone to camps and enjoy trips with complete strangers, albeit coaches? Add this again to the “I simply don’t get it” column.
  • Jersey Shore shark attack analogy. Get ready for more stories both against Penn State and stories of mass institutional child sexual abuse in general. As is often the case, and as seen by analogy in the perennial case of swimmers bitten by sharks off the Jersey Shore followed by a concomitant media feeding frenzy, watch the floodgates open.
  • What’s off the front page? While this story has our rapt attention, what important story or stories is our Ted Baxter brain dead media ignoring even more than usual?
  • Failure to report versus coverup and obstruction of justice. This is a critical distinction. And hugely important. Make sure you understand the difference. If not, go ask an adult.
  • Misprision. At common law it consisted of failing to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities. And there were exceptions: relatives, family members, spouses. Are these folks suggesting this? Have they ever heard of it? Why am I asking so many questions?
  • What exactly must you report: the exact details, the totality, the severity? These are all various and several considerations. Try delimiting them in a statute. No, go ahead. I dare you.The functional difficulties in abiding by these proposed new statutes will prove most problematic.
  • High Five? You are creating an inherent conflict with the Fifth Amendment: I have no duty to self-incriminate but a compulsory statute might negate or make impossible my Constitutional protection(s). When the non-reporting is subject to a crime, add another level of complexity to the problem.
  • Be careful not to traumatize a child even more. For a review of this option read this scathing indictment. Also remember that kids will be forced to undergo stripsearches and be checked and poked and prodded and photographs in ways that would amount to sexual battery if done by a stranger. And caseworkers and nurses are strangers. This also destroys parent-child trust and autonomy.
  • In more cases than you can imagine, sometimes it’s best to let a kid call the shots. To show some autonomy and control. Mandatory reporting laws would kill that. A parent would have to decide whether to honor a child’s request over the fear of prosecution. The option of whether to report or even if to report should remain with parents and affected children. Sometimes they elect to decline pursuing a claim criminally for reasons that only they should be allowed to decide.
  • Imagine if the allegations had been about recruiting violations! Oh, my. Heaven forbid! They’d never let anything risk their NCAA ticket. But child rape? Apparently, that’s no big deal.

And it’s not just me. The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR) agrees.

More Mandated Child Abuse Reporting Would Be Worst Response to Penn State Scandal

Published in The Sacramento Bee

The worst response to the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University would be to rush to broaden laws requiring people to report their slightest suspicions of child maltreatment, according to a national non-profit child advocacy group.

“The calls to make anyone and everyone report anything and everything to child protective services (CPS) agencies are as harmful as they are predictable,” said Richard Wexler, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. “A massive expansion of mandatory reporting laws will harm the very children it is intended to help.

“More children will suffer at the hands of child abusers because CPS caseworkers will be even more overwhelmed with false allegations and have even less time to find children in real danger,” Wexler said. “And more children will suffer at the hands of CPS agencies – because inflicting a child abuse investigation on a child who was never otherwise harmed is an act of child abuse in and of itself.”

Wexler said the Penn State cases were not the result of the lack of laws. Rather, he said, if the allegations are true, “two people already required to report child maltreatment under existing law failed to do so.”

Changing laws now would only result in “a deluge of false allegations called in by newly-minted ‘mandated reporters’ protecting not children but themselves – because they feared being punished for failure to report. The time wasted on these cases would be stolen from children in real danger.”

In addition, Wexler said, “a child abuse investigation is not a benign act.  When total strangers pull a small child aside to question him about the most intimate aspects of his life, that can traumatize that child. The trauma is compounded if the child is stripsearched by caseworkers looking for bruises. The examination for sexual abuse is even more traumatic.

“Sometimes children have to be put through all that, because the risk of actual abuse is even greater,” Wexler said. “But the threshold for starting such a process should be higher than some guess by, say, a school secretary.”

For more about the harm of expanding mandatory reporting, see NCCPR’s Child Welfare Blog,

Apopemptic Finding. In all of its well-intended motivations, new mandatory child abuse reporting statutes for the foregoing reasons and averments are not a good idea. To put it mildly. It’s a decades old, hackneyed and hoary proposal. The favorite of the clueless, nescient and criminally unimaginative. And in an area that will be the most difficult for many to understand, stop empowering the state with more jurisdiction and control. That’s enough.
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