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New Va. sexual abuse laws explained

Posted at 11:53 PM, Jul 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-13 10:59:36-04

Richmond, Va. (WTVR)—In Virginia, lawmakers and children’s advocacy groups have taken action in the wake of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. 

Thursday, a released report commissioned by the Penn State board of trustees found that key officials at the University helped cover up the allegations that Jerry Sandusky sexually abused children. 

Ian Danielsen works for Greater Richmond Stop Child Abuse Now, or SCAN. He says the report into how Penn State officials handled the Jerry Sandusky situation was the main topic of conversation around the office Thursday.

“I think in some ways, we were actually galvanized that the truth is truly out there,” says Danielsen.  “Now, we can begin to learn from it and put some protective practices in place.”

The Virginia General Assembly took action during the 2012 session. 

New laws took effect July 1 that expand the list of who is required to report suspected child abuse, shortens the mandatory reporting period to 24 hours from 72, and makes failure to report sexual abuse a criminal offense.

“We had pretty good laws on the books already, but when you see things that happened like at Penn State it helps us fill the gaps,” says Virginia State Senator Richard Stuart, R-District 28.

The Penn State investigation found that officials there failed to report Sandusky's actions to the proper authorities multiple times.  Under the new Virginia law, such faul would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to one year in jail.

“Anyone who would stand by and watch a pedophile abuse a child in a serious way in my opinion is criminal,” says Sen. Stuart.

Danielsen thinks Virginia is taking steps in the right direction to protect its children. He says what happened at Penn State should be looked at with great care across the nation.

“For me to be able to get up and go to work in the morning, I have to subscribe to the idea that this can be put into service to something greater,” says Danielsen.  “That this is a learning lesson.”