Reporting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse

What should I do if I suspect that a child is being sexually abused?
  Report it to child protection services. In North Dakota contact your county social services office or call your local police department.
Do I have legal protection when I report a suspected case of child abuse?
  Yes, the law protects you. Persons who report in good faith are generally granted immunity from civil and criminal court action even if the report proves to be mistaken or cannot be proven. However, knowingly making a false report with malicious intent is a crime.
What does “good faith” mean?
  “Good faith” is an honest belief that a child is being abused or has been abused.
How sure must I be before I report?
  North Dakota laws require than an individual have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused. If you have a serious concern about the safety of a child, you should make a report. Reporting laws do not require proof. Proof is determined by the authorities.
Source: Basic facts about child sexual abuse,
Prevent Child Abuse America, 1988
What will happen after a report is made?
  Child Protection Services is required to notify law enforcement and coordinate any intervention. Generally, reports of suspected child sexual abuse are assigned to a social worker who will conduct:

a safety assessment to determine the threat of immediate harm to children and the necessary steps to protect them,

a risk assessment to estimate the possibility of future abuse or neglect and,

a family strengths/needs assessment to help determine the need for services.
  Social workers will use a variety of methods to conduct the assessment including interviews with the children, parents and others who have knowledge of the incident or family function. Social workers may also request records from other agencies to document the information gathered in the assessment process. According to the child abuse and neglect law, upon the completion of the assessment of the initial report of child abuse or neglect, a decision must be made whether services are required to provide for the protection and treatment of an abused or neglected child. In most counties, multidisciplinary community teams assist with this decision making.
Will a child be removed from the home as a result of a report?
  Unless a child is in danger and cannot be protected in the home, the goal of Child Protection Services is to keep a family together. If a child is in immediate danger, the child may be placed in protective custody by the court.
  Children may be place in temporary protective custody or shelter care only by order of the court. Police officers and physicians also have limited authority to take emergency custody of children in immediate danger.
Source: Child Abuse and Neglect: Should I Report This? ND Department of Human Services, Children and Family Services Division, Child Protection Services
Are sexual offenders usually prosecuted and convicted?
  The county state’s attorney’s office will decide whether or not to prosecute the case, but here are factors that make prosecution and conviction more promising:

Admission of guilt by the perpetrator

Covert recording of admission of guilt

DNA evidence

Medical findings upon examination of the victim

An eye witness

Corroborating evidence such as police finding something the victim describes as being used during the sexual abuse
Source: North Dakota Attorney General’s Office

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