“In the days and months following the Penn State sex abuse scandal, people across the country seemed to be asking the same question: “How can something like this go unreported for so long?” Jerry Sandusky was allowed unfettered access to his young victims while reports of the abuse were quickly and quietly silenced, never reaching authorities.
In the state of Mississippi, there are laws that hold those in a position of authority or trust to a higher standard, requiring they report any suspected abuse to the Department of Human Services.
Section 43-21-353 of the Mississippi Code states: “Any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social worker, child care-giver, minister, law enforcement officer, public or private school employee, or any other person having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child or an abused child, shall cause an oral report to be made immediately by telephone or otherwise and followed as soon thereafter as possible by a report in writing to the Department of Human Services.”
During the recent trial of local businessman and Sunday school teacher Benny Shelton, a pastor testified that he was aware of the allegation of sexual abuse. Eastview Baptist Church Pastor Junior Eads told both prosecutors and defense attorneys that he had a conversation with Shelton’s young victim during which the boy stated that Shelton had fondled him.
Eads testified that he did not believe the teen and approached Shelton, telling the Sunday school teacher the boy was making “allegations” against Shelton. He then instructed Shelton to talk to the boy’s parents. The pastor did not contact DHS, law enforcement or the boy’s mother. Shelton continued to have a relationship with his victim for months after the boy first spoke with Eads.
A jury found Shelton guilty of sexual assault against a minor on Aug. 23. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison with five suspended.
Charges have not been filed against Junior Eads, however.
Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department Detective Tony Cooper said he does not plan to pursue charges against Eads.
“I do not believe he was in violation of the law,” said Cooper, who declined to elaborate.
As clearly outlined in Mississippi law, if a person in a position of trust fails to report any form of abuse of a child, sexual or otherwise, it is a crime. However, to the chagrin of District Attorney Forrest Allgood, it is a misdemeanor, not a felony.
Allgood encouraged citizens to contact their legislators to increase the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony.”
In my state, the law says: A person commits child abuse if such person causes an injury to a child’s life or health, or permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child’s life or health, or engages in a continued pattern of conduct that results in malnourishment, lack of proper medical care, cruel punishment, mistreatment, or an accumulation of injuries that ultimately results in the death of a child or serious bodily injury to a child.
A few years ago, I called my state’s attorney’s office to inquire how often this law is implemented, and to ask how I can work towards getting the law used more often –especially against mothers or grandmothers who willingly allow child sexual abuse to continue in their home.
The woman at my state’s attorneys office gasped and said to me, “but that’s a Class 3 Felony! You want a mother charged with a felony?!”
And there you have it, one of the brick walls that come between a child being sexually abused, and getting help for them. Many people somehow find it too harsh, or even shocking, to charge a mother or grandmother with felony child endangerment. As long as the female gender receives different treatment than males do, women will continue to allow children to be sexually abused and raped by the men in their life.
Why was this woman shocked that I want mothers charged with a felony? It’s a felony to the mind, body, and soul of a child when they are being repeatedly raped, molested, or terrorized…. and their own mother knows and does nothing.