Tougher state law plays role in Victory Christian Center arrests

TULSA - Experts say it's rare for staff members of a church, school or business to be charged with failure to report child abuse.

But it could become more common. In 2009, Oklahoma tightened its law regarding the mandatory reporting of child abuse.

Instead of requiring teachers, doctors and other professionals to report suspected abuse in a timely manner, the law was broadened to include everyone.

According to court documents, it took officials at Victory Christian Center two weeks to notify the police as well as the mothers of two young victims that the girls had reportedly been assaulted by an employee

Five staff members have been charged with failure to report child abuse, including the son of the church's founder, and the church's human resources director.

"That's where this law comes into play. You must report as soon as you find out," said TPD officer Jillian Roberson.

Roberson says the legislation that took effect in 2009 is clear. When any adult suspects the abuse of a child, there is no time to conduct an internal investigation. Law enforcement must be notified immediately.

"It is not up to them. They do not take this into their own hands. Any type of child abuse is criminal. That's our job," Roberson said. "That's when we step in and take over the case. Any individual or organization should not feel like they are going to take that on internally and handle the situation."

Sharon Dotty is an advocate with Empowering Adults, Protecting Children. She says the arrest of the VCC employees highlights a larger problem.

"The unfortunate thing is, it's not surprising," Dotty said. "Many organizations and people in our communities, in our state, don't understand the responsibility they have to speak up."

She hopes the arrest will be a wake up call to other organizations when it comes to reporting suspected abuse.

"Perhaps people will start to pay attention to how important we say it is in Oklahoma for adults to report these suspicions," Dotty said.

According to a statement by Victory Christian Center, Chris Denman and Israel Castillo have been fired while the five employees charged with failure to report child abuse have been suspended.

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