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Practical Legal Guide on Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse for Health Care Professionals

NCJ Number
Claire Harwell
Date Published
February 2011
28 pages
This guide presents a general overview of reporting requirements for health professionals under New Mexico law and applicable Federal law; however, it is not a substitute for legal advice regarding particular circumstances and specific cases.
The guide first summarizes mandated reporting requirements for offenses that occur in residential treatment facilities or treatment facilities; some sexually transmitted infections; certain kinds of injuries (firearm injury, drug overdose, spinal cord injury, and traumatic brain injury); and abuse/neglect in nursing homes and facilities funded by Medicare and Medicaid. Neither New Mexico law nor Federal law have a general requirement for the reporting of the sexual assault of an adult (over 18 years old) to law enforcement authorities; exceptions are military health care providers, who must report sexual assaults and sexual abuse offenses, and sexual assault cases that involve incapacitated adults. There are different laws about reporting child abuse/neglect under Federal law and State law. Circumstances in which reports must be made to either law enforcement or the Children Youth and Families Department are as follows: abuse or neglect of any child under 1 years old perpetrated by a parent, guardian, or custodian; abuse perpetrated against a child by a third party in which parents or a guardian failed to act reasonably in protecting the child; the risk of serious harm to a child due to action or inaction of a parent or guardian; and other requirements imposed by professional licensure or by treatment-facility policy. Other reporting requirements pertain to patients under 18 years old who are victims of sexual assault/abuse when the provider is working in Indian Country. General medical/legal issues pertinent to confidentiality and treatment are also discussed. The guide concludes with an overview of issues related to the treatment of minors and vulnerable adults.