WCVE PBS Richmond • July 11th, 2019
By Reed Canaan
Faith leaders in Virginia are now required to report suspected child abuse. Legislation that went into effect July 1 adds ministers, priests, rabbis, and imams to the list of mandated reporters. But victim advocates say they want the law to go further.
Becky Ianni with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said she hopes the law will increase reporting of child abuse, but is concerned about what she identifies as a loophole.
Clergy are exempt from reporting abuse if the religious organization requires the conversation to be confidential, like during confession.
“I’m afraid that that loophole will keep some cases from being reported,” Clergy said.
Jeff Caruso, Executive Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, defended the importance of this exemption.
“This is an exemption that applies across the board to faith leaders and it’s important to respect religious practices and traditions. And the bill does that and at the same time strengthens protections for children, which is extremely important and necessary,” Caruso said.
Delegate Wendy Gooditis, chief co-patron of the legislation, agreed that this exemption is a loophole in the law.
“All I can say is we made progress with this. And there’s certainly more work to be done,” she said.
There are now 19 categories of individuals mandated to report child abuse in Virginia.