Ask anyone who has been in a long-term relationship before: you’re going to fight and argue from time to time. This is true whether the “relationship” in question involves a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, parent and child, roommate, or some other type of domestic situation. If you’re around someone long enough, you’re bound to butt heads.
Sometimes, these types of stressful interactions turn violent, and one or both parties may hurt the other. This is bad, and it shouldn’t be tolerated. What’s far worse, though, is when someone is embroiled in an ongoing abusive situation and is too afraid – or just plain stuck – to get out of it.
No one should have to live like that. In recent decades, our society has done a lot to raise awareness about domestic violence and how the general public – and specific professions – can help. One of the biggest ways? They can report incidents that they believe involve domestic abuse to authorities, so the situation is investigated.
Who exactly can report though? How does it work? Are there problems with this system?
Below, we’ll explore how North Carolina handles the reporting of domestic violence situations, including mandatory reporting laws.
Breaking Down North Carolina Domestic Violence Reporting and How It Works
Here’s the bullet point everyone needs to know: anyone can report an incident of domestic violence to the police, Child Protective Services, or other authorities. That could be:
- Your neighbors if they hear a loud argument.
- Other patrons or employees at a restaurant or bar if you get angry during a fight and grab, push, or threaten someone.
- Doctors, teachers, childcare workers, home health professionals, and others who notice injuries that may or may not be due to abuse.
- Coworkers who think someone is acting pained, notice bruising, or believe that a coworker’s significant other’s controlling behavior is abusive.
These are just some examples. Literally anyone can make a report of abuse that brings police or other authorities to your door and turns your life upside down as you deal with the fallout.
In addition to who can report, there are also specific situations and professions that the law lists for mandatory reporting.
Situations where anyone has a duty to report include:
- Where neglect or child abuse is suspected by a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker.
- Where abuse, exploitation, or neglect of a disabled individual or senior by their caretaker is suspected.
Situations where certain professions have a duty to report include:
- When hospitals or physicians come across specific types of illnesses, injuries, or wounds.
- When school principals have actual or personal knowledge that certain offenses have happened on school property.
- When computer technicians or photo processors come across images of a minor (or someone who reasonably looks like a minor) involved in sex acts through the scope of their employment.
What happens if someone doesn’t adhere to mandatory reporting laws? They face criminal penalties. Specifically, a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, which comes with the possibility of up to 120 days of active (jail time), intermediate, or community punishment, as well as fines in the amount the court deems appropriate.
Why Reporting Laws and Rules Matter in North Carolina Domestic Violence Cases
While it is understandable why lawmakers and victims’ advocates want to encourage reporting as much as possible, it is important to highlight the potential damage this can do as well.
When people are threatened with criminal punishment for not reporting, this makes them more likely to report even minor, gray-area incidents because they don’t want to get into trouble. Coupled with our state’s tough domestic violence laws, this can lead to people facing charges for accidents or misunderstandings.
Allowing anyone to report comes with similar issues, but also adds other frustrating complications. Neighbors who “hear abuse” can’t possibly know exactly what is going on. The same is true for coworkers who may be misinterpreting signals or getting only part of the story. Even worse, there is the possibility that some people make false reports deliberately to settle grudges or “help” the party they believe is in a bad situation.
This is why, if you find yourself facing accusations, it is incredibly valuable to learn where those allegations are coming from and what they are based on.