Mandatory reporting and child sexual abuse: Contextualising beliefs and attitudes.

Year: 2001

Author: Taylor, Shannon-Caroline, Lloyd, Doug

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Despite greater social awareness the topic of child abuse within the family unit continues to be a vexing issue for professionals and the lay community. Mandatory reporting of child abuse was introduced in Victoria in 1993 after community outrage at the killing of a young child through parental abuse. Legislating against child abuse recognizes that children have a right to be protected from abuse, but it does not protect children from prevailing social attitudes and beliefs about child abuse, especially abuse within the family unit. Figures suggest that reports of suspected child abuse (physical and sexual) have increased since the introduction of Mandatory Reporting in Victoria. Teachers play a significant role in reporting suspected abuses since they occupy close and regular contact with children and adolescents. Attitudes and beliefs towards child abuse, especially sexual abuse, have been articulated as a problem among mandated professionals nationally and internationally. This paper discusses the intersection of beliefs and attitudinal factors among teachers and the implications for a range of behaviours regarding reporting and responding to the sexual abuse of children and adolescents. Also discussed are education programs designed to enhance teachers’ knowledge of child/adolescent abuse and mandatory reporting. Weaknesses in these programs are identified and suggestions to improve teacher education and delivery of such programs are also discussed.