What to Do if You Have Witnessed or Suspect Child Abuse in Pennsylvania

Published on March 11, 2013

After the nation was shocked by the sexual child abuse at Penn State University, authorities questioned how such a thing could have happened at such a prestigious institution. The media focused on the most harrowing element of the story–not that the children were abused, but that no one at the institution reported the crimes, allowing the abuse to continue.

The case brought attention to the fact that reporting child sexual abuse is not only ethical, it is a legal responsibility–and the failure to do so has its consequences. Coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier were both fired by Penn State’s board of trustees for their failure to report the incidents of abuse that occurred there.

Here are additional ways people may be held accountable for not reporting child sex abuse in PA:

  1. State criminal charges. The majority of child abuse cases are considered state criminal matters, and penalties vary from state to state. Under Pennsylvania law, all staff members of public or private agencies, institutions, schools, hospitals or other facilities who come into contact with an abused child are required to immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency of the suspected abuse. After he or she is notified, the person in charge is now legally responsible for reporting the abuse to the Department of Public Welfare. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges against the administrator.
  2. Federal criminal charges. While each state has different rules for reporting abuse, there are a few federal guidelines pertaining to children. Under federal law, child sex offenders may face additional penalties if the crime included aggravated circumstances (such as force or threats, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, forced prostitution, or death of the child). If convicted, the offender will face fines and imprisonment.
  3. Personal injury lawsuit. Victims of child sexual abuse are likely to suffer physical and mental injuries–some of which can haunt them for the rest of their lives. In addition to criminal charges, a family may wish to consider a personal injury lawsuit to hold the abuser financially responsible for the victim’s emotional and physical pain and suffering, therapy, medical bills and other recovery costs.

Our attorneys can help your family face this tragedy.

We understand how vulnerable you and your child are feeling after the abuse has come to light. You very likely want to put this tragedy behind you–and might be tempted to do nothing in order to hide the pain. Our Pennsylvania child sex abuse attorneysknow that the only way to cope with sexual abuse is by bringing it into the open–preventing the offender from striking again. We fight for the rights of victims who were taken advantage of by someone they should have been able to trust, at the same time protecting your family’s privacy as you rebuild your lives.


To find out how we can help you, call (855) 880-6667 today for a FREE consultation on your case.

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