There was a discussion the other day on Facebook regarding working on victims of domestic violence and what to do when you find yourself in that situation. The Project for Open Education in Massage (POEM) has a very informative post that might help you get a start on dealing with victims of domestic abuse.
In the article and the Facebook discussion, there was mention of being a ‘mandatory reporter’. My question to you is:
Are you a mandatory reporter?
Often, the issue of whether or not you are a mandatory reporter is simply not covered in massage school or, more likely, the laws have changed since you graduated.
What is a mandatory reporter?
“In many U.S. states and Australia, mandated reporters are professionals who, in the ordinary course of their work and because they have regular contact with children, disabled persons, senior citizens, or other identified vulnerable populations, are required to report (or cause a report to be made) whenever financial, physical, sexual or other types of abuse have been observed or are suspected, or when there is evidence of neglect.” *
Let’s break that down a bit, shall we? “In many US states” – that means that this is not a federal law and will vary from state to state. “vulnerable populations” will vary from situation to situation, but almost always includes children and senior citizens. It can also include adults who require living assistance, whether in home or in an assisted living facility. There are situations, usually temporary, when it includes able-bodied adults, such as when they are hospitalized, medicated, or the like.
How do I find out if I am a mandatory reporter?
In general, the agency that issues your license to practice will be where you go. They will usually list the laws that impact you. In the state of Washington, where I’m licensed, the agency is the Department of Health. Along the left side of the page, you’ll see a link to the laws affecting massage therapists.
At the top of the page, you’ll see links to the 2 documents that directly relate to massage. In WA, the RCW is the “law” and WAC is how the law is administered.
Below that, we have a list of related RCWs that relate to massage
Here with have the RCWs pertaining to Abuse of children and vulnerable adults. These two laws specify who is a mandated reporter and what constitutes a child or vulnerable adult.
In addition, there are some WACs that also apply to massage therapists.
While I haven’t been to the websites for all 50 states, I have been to a couple of others and they are very similar to those of Washington. I’m rather proud of my home state’s online laws; they are quite readable and the search feature works extremely well.
The law only covers children and vulnerable adults. What about other adults?
The only time other adults are mentioned, in regards to domestic violence, it is only in respect to law enforcement officers and their duties. Most of the opinions I have read consider it a breach of client confidentiality to report domestic violence although some opinions state that it is simply reporting criminal activity. Most domestic violence advocates urge caution when reporting domestic violence as it can put the victim in greater danger. In many cases, it’s the abuser who takes the victim to the emergency room for acute injury care!
In the very few incidents where a client has admitted to being battered, my first response to them was to ask “Do you need help? I can get you in touch with someone who can help you.” I am not trained or qualified to provide any meaningful help, but I can get the phone number of a women’s shelter in under 5 minutes!
Oftentimes, though, they do not want our help or interference. In that situation, I have to accept their decision, sad though it may be.
Each case and situation is unique, so there is no black and white answer. If you find that you are encountering clients who appear to be victims of domestic abuse and who are not children or vulnerable adults, I urge you to get as much information and education about dealing with this population as possible.
I’m asking for your help. In the comments below, please link to your state agency’s website where other readers can go to find out what laws affect them! Consider it your good deed for the day.
* Source Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandated_reporter