FBI Director Louis Freeh used the term “ callous indifference“ to describe how the four leaders at Penn State placed their worries of possible bad publicity for their prestigious football program over concerns for the youngsters victimized by Jerry Sandusky. In fact, teachers and coaches of those under the age of 18 are “mandated reporters” and under Pennsylvania state law, are required to report any suspected abuse to the state toll-free 24/7 hotline established by that state’s Dept. of Public Welfare.
Most states have similar laws on the books, yet abuse of children and vulnerable adults too often goes unreported. What about members of the general public who aren’t mandated to report abuse? Is there an obligation to report suspected child abuse (or dependent adult abuse for persons ages 16-84 who are mentally/developmentally disabled)?
As the parent of a fun-loving teen with significant disabilities, I sometimes worry that he could become a victim of physical or sexual abuse. Sure, I trust his aides, babysitters and camp counselors, but what about someone I don’t know down the line? The statistics are pretty bleak —a 2000 study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence stated: “Among adults who are developmentally disabled, as many as 83% of the females and 32% of the males are the victims of sexual assault.”
And on the reporting end, a 1995 study showed that only 3% of sexual abuse cases involving people with developmental disabilities are ever reported to the authorities. That’s why I need your help to prevent abuse against my son, and others are who similarly vulnerable.
Since parents can’t be with their children (or dependent adults) every minute of the day, we need everyone to be our extra set of ears and eyes. I’m not telling you to become crazed and read too much into an innocent event, but to be watchful nonetheless. Did you witness something that made you want to look away? Was there an interaction that seemed way out of line? Even if you suspect something, who would you tell?
In Los Angeles County, suspected child abuse should be reported to the Child Protection Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, toll-free at (800) 540-4000.
For suspected abuse of dependent adults (18-64) or elder adult abuse (65+), contact Adult Protective Services at (877) 477-3646. Adult Protective Services (APS) is a 24-hour service program that investigates all reported at-risk situations without regard to income involving individuals 65 or older and dependent adults (18-64 who are physically or mentally impaired). Types of referrals include physical, sexual or financial abuse, isolation, neglect, or self-neglect.
To end on a much happier note, I learned that Camp Ohr Lanu, the Family Camp For Jewish Families Raising Children ages, 4-14, with Special Needs still has a few slots available for this Aug. 17-22 at Camp Ramah in Ojai, CA. This is an extra-special opportunity for all members of your family to benefit from a camp experience – parents, siblings and the child/teen with special needs.
Ohr Lanu builds a true community with its trained, caring staff that includes special educators, behavior and family education specialists, and individual counselors paired with each family. Each special needs child will choose a focus - dance, music, art or drama- facilitated by a trained therapist in that area. Siblings also have in their own group activities, helping create new friends who “get it”. Parents have their own track with text study, networking and relaxation. And together, families will enjoy everything Camp Ramah offers: an Olympic size swimming pool, ropes course, hiking trails and more.
For more information, go to here.