Reaction to Proposed Law Targeting Child Sex Abuse

May 3, 2012

The director of the Family Resource Center in Tupelo supports a bill sent to the governor that requires health professionals, clergy and others to report suspected sexual abuse of children.

"Over 17,000 children were allegedly sexually abused last year," said Christi Webb, who leads an agency that conducted more than 400 forensic interviews last year to determine if a child had been sexually abused.

But many more incidents go unreported, she said, because sometimes people who are in position to know what's going on don't come forward.

"I think when it comes to children, when it comes to sexual abuse, child abuse, I think confidentiality needs to be thrown completely out the window," Webb continued.

That's no problem, said Dr. Rick Brooks, the pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Tupelo.

He added that House Bill 16 does not change the way pastors in his denomination have always approached the issue.

"We've always understood that ethically as pastors, although we hold confidence in high regard...part of the sacred trust of being a pastor is to realize there are situations with people who are vulnerable and cannot take care of themselves where you are ethically liable to report," said Brooks.

The law also calls on commercial photo processors to report suspected child abuse to authorities.

One professional photographer said that's a good idea.

"The bill primarily is going to deal with the Walmarts, drug stores, things of that nature," said photographer Marty Petit of Tupelo. "If they are coming across and they are developing homemade film and they see something, then they are required by law now to turn that in."

The bill also contains a portion that will require anyone performing abortions on girls under the age of 14 to preserve DNA results to determine if statutory rape was involved.








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