State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson
Stopping The Silence: Why everyone should be required to report child abuse
By Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson
First a local youth group leader, now a Penn State football coach. State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson says those in charge not only knew about the suspected sexual abuse, they essentially allowed it to happen. Dickerson explains her plan to strengthen the mandatory reporting laws designed to protect children.
It’s no secret that child predators target places that are known to attract kids. So it should come as no surprise that Timothy Dampier, who is accused of sexually abusing young boys, was actively involved in church youth groups and volunteered at a local Boys and Girls Club. Similarly, Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is now charged with molesting children that he met through a charity for troubled youth.
What is surprising, even jaw dropping to some, is that adults reportedly witnessed the sexual assaults in Pennsylvania and chose to keep Sandusky’s secret to themselves. Dampier’s story is chillingly similar.
According to news reports, a former victim told Rev. Robert Manaway about his alleged abuse when Dampier began playing music at a Seattle Church. Instead of reporting the incident, Manaway called a private meeting between Dampier and his accuser. It wasn’t until Dampier started leading worship at another local church that police were notified. Since then, three more victims have come forward.
Dampier and Sandusky are not the only ones responsible for these crimes. The adults who knew about the abuse, yet chose to stay silent, are also at fault. Strangely, their decision to keep the abuse under wraps is not a crime in Washington State. Only state employees, medical workers, and a handful of others are required to report sexual abuse. I believe it’s time we change that.
How many victims could have been saved if the suspected abuse had been reported? How many sexual assaults could have been prevented? Enough is enough! We shouldn’t keep changing the law with each disturbing case when we have a comprehensive solution available now.
For the past several months, I have been working on legislation that would require *everyone* to report child abuse. Protecting kids from society’s most dangerous predators should not be optional. I agree with King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg that the time has come to put the safety of Washington’s kids first. Universal reporting laws are a step in the right direction.
Representative Mary Lou Dickerson was elected to the Washington State Legislature in 1994. This is her ninth term representing the 36th Legislative District. She is currently Chair of the House Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee.