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Mandatory Reporting info for teens

If you are under the age of 18, talking about any type of sexual assault with most adults will require them to make a mandatory report. If you want to talk to an adult but you aren’t ready to report yet, start with one of these: 



Something Happened to Me (Ages 12-18) | RAINN information about mandatory reporting and your choices


All 50 US states have laws about mandatory reporting. These laws were put in place to stop child abuse. They require adults who work with children to call a child abuse hotline if they have any reason to think a child might have been harmed in any way. In some states, every adult is required to report suspected child abuse. In all states, mandatory reporters include school staff (even the custodian), coaches, therapists, physicians, and more. Because the law considers you a child, adults have to follow these laws until the day you turn 18. This includes reporting any sexual activity that seems suspicious or possibly inappropriate.  It includes past, present, or ongoing sexual activity.  It is possible your parents would have to make a report, or think they have to report, or decide to make a police report anyway.


As a teen or preteen dealing with unwanted or confusing sexual experiences with a sibling, this puts you in a difficult position. If you share what’s happening with other teens…who knows where the story will end up. If you share anything about your sexual trauma with almost any adult, the law requires them to report it to the child abuse hotline. From there, your parents, child protection workers, even police will find out. Some teens want this, some do not. Either way, you may lose control of who knows your story and how they handle the information.   


So, What Can I Do?

If you are ready for police and your parents to know your story, then you can start by telling whoever you are most comfortable talking to. You can report with them or let them start the reporting process for you. You can also make a report directly yourself. 


If you’re not ready for all that yet, but you need help now, what can you do? There are ways you can get help–but you have to be careful how you ask for it. 

  1. You can talk to adults you know and trust but use vague terms and leave out details. You can talk about how you are feeling now (anxious, triggered, depressed, suicidal) without talking about why you think you feel this way.  Remember: they can’t tell what they don’t know.  

  2. You can call your local sexual assault crisis center and ask to talk to an advocate. This is a person who can support you through the process of deciding, disclosing, and reporting.  

  3. All of the helplines in the top bar are available by text, chat, or voice. They are anonymous (they don’t know who you are unless you tell them) and confidential (they won’t tell anything you tell them) and are experts in dealing with any kind of difficult sexual situation.

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