5.2 Mandated Reporters
This series of blog posts was developed for the Fine Literature Book Club on Facebook. Crossing the Line was their April 2022 group read, and I was honored to lead the discussion.
"It doesn't matter if I love him, I made a promise.
Nathan confronts Megan over the domestic violence she is experiencing, and she spills the beans. Nathan is horrified, not only by the situation, but her lack of response to it. This is a reflection of the opinions many have of women who stay in violent relationships. To many, such situations seem incomprehensible.
"By law, I have to report this."
Nathan (and Megan) are so-called "mandated reporters." This means that if they uncover signs of abuse in the course of their jobs they are required to report it.
This has both benefits and detractions for society.
The benefits are obvious. Mandated reporting prevents case workers, teachers, leaders, and healthcare workers from sweeping abuse under the carpet. It can help many people out of abusive situations, and it helps prevent corruption in institutions that are designed to help people.
Many times (such as in Megan's case), victim of abuse do not or cannot leave an abusive situation. They frequently refuse to press charges. In the state where this story is based, the state can step in press charges itself. It is thought that this beneficial to the situation because an abuser may not retaliate against a victim who did not press charges.
Unfortunately, knowing that teachers, psychologists, and healthcare workers are mandated reporters can cause victims to not reach out for medical or psychological help. They sometimes refuse to get therapy, knowing their therapist would have to initiate contact with the criminal justice system. This places the timeframe for getting help, therapy, and legal support on the side of the state and not with the victim. Thus, mandated reporting can cause some victims to sink deeper into abuse.
Like many aspects of life, there are no solutions—only trade offs. Each state/locality must decide what is best for their populace, whether mandated reporting or some other system. Either way, there will be pros and cons. There is not one perfect system that will help victims every time.