Delaware Family Court

 

 

If a few legislators in Delaware have their way, Delaware House Bill 306 would have effects analogous to the current case law in Connecticut which allows an alleged perpetrator of sexual abuse to sue anyone who first believes, and then reports, a child’s disclosure of sexual abuse. See post Protective Parent Law in Some States But Not in Connecticut. In her response to the Connecticut Law Tribune, Joan Meier of DVLEAP wrote:

“Whatever the actual truth of the abuse allegations, the fact that a national expert in the field, a social worker at DCF, and the police believed the child should have been more than sufficient to defeat a malicious prosecution claim against the mother. Indeed, the family court had previously found that the mother ‘profoundly believes’ the abuse allegation. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court said that the mother had ‘persuaded herself that what she knew to be false was true.’  ”

 In that Connecticut case, the family court decided that the mother “profoundly believed” the abuse occurred. Anyone – malicious or not – who “profoundly believes” that a child is being abused, is obliged to report to the authorities any and all information that would lead to securing protection for the child – who might or might not be abused. A “profound belief” means belief . So does the phrase “good faith belief” in Delaware Code Chapter 81, Title 10, §8146 (a).

When “malicious” people “profoundly believe” that a child is being abused, that’s still called a “good faith belief”.  Those “bad” people are still obliged to report child abuse and to protect children – whether or not they have “malicious” intent.

The Connecticut family court case was followed by a civil case in which the alleged perpetrator sued the mother who, according to the Connecticut Supreme Court, believed the abuse occurred because she “persuaded herself that what she knew to be false was true.”  That sounds like “Dr.” Richard Gardner’s  theory called “parental alienation syndrome”.  

The problem with HB 306 is that §8146 (b) immediately follows §8146 (a ) and both are within the same section presumably also within the same context. That sets the stage for anyone in Delaware to say there’s such a thing as “maliciously trying to protect a child from abuse”.

 House Bill 306 looks like a good bill – to anyone who hasn’t heard of the “PAS scam”, unfortunately, it would be a Trojan horse for those wanting to silence mandated reporters and protective mothers.

Protecting children and acting with malice are two totally different states of being. How about keeping the two totally different subjects in two totally separate sections? If legislators in Delaware really want to “encourage the reporting of possible sexual abuse of a child by providing immunity from civil liability for making such a report”, here’s what the amendment should look like: 

” §8146 (a) No person shall be subject to any civil action for damages of any type as a result of reporting to a law enforcement officer or the Attorney General’s Office any act of possible sexual abuse of a child provided such report is made under a good faith belief that the sexual abuse has occurred.” Period.

 

SPONSOR:    Rep. Lavelle & Rep. Schwartzkopf & Sen. Henry & Sen. Sorenson;
  Reps. Bennett, Brady, Carson, Keeley, Kowalko, Cathcart, D. Short, BriggsKing, Hocker, Hudson, Kovach, Miro, Ramone, Thornburg, Wilson; Sens. Bunting, Marshall

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES145th GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

HOUSE BILL NO. 306

 

 AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 10 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO REPORTING POSSIBLE SEXUAL ABUSE OF A CHILD.

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1.  Amend Chapter 81, Title 10, Delaware Code by adding a new section to read as follows:

“§ 8146.  Exemption from civil liability for reporting sexual abuse of a child.

(a)           No person shall be subject to any civil action for damages of any type as a result of reporting to a law enforcement officer or the Attorney General’s Office any act of possible sexual abuse of a child provided such report is made under a good faith belief that the sexual abuse has occurred.

(b)           This section shall not apply if the person making the report is also a participant in the sexual abuse of the child or the person makes a false report of sexual abuse of a child with the intent to cause malicious harm to the child, or child’s family, or the alleged perpetrator or perpetrators of the possible sexual abuse.”.

SYNOPSIS

This Bill intends to encourage the reporting of possible sexual abuse of a child by providing immunity from civil liability for making such a report.

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