Reporting Abuse with the Abuser Present: How a Minnesota Law Continues to Traumatize Child Abuse Victims

Maya White came forward to report that her father was abusing her when she was a sixth-grader. Maya soon realized that she would have to report the abuse while in the presence of her father. In her own words, Maya, now 15 years old, explained that “not only did I have to tell my story to complete strangers, but I was also forced to do so in front of my abuser.”

No child should have to report the abuse they endured in the presence of their abuser. Unfortunately, children who suffer child abuse in Minnesota are often forced to report the abuse they experience in front of their abuser because Minnesota does not grant “children the right to be interviewed separately from their guardians when reporting abuse – even if the guardian is the alleged abuser,” according to the Minnesota House of Representatives

Maya is using her voice to call for a change, stating that “no child should have to go through the same experience that I did.” Minnesota lawmakers, including Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL – Roseville), agree. Rep. Becker-Finn sponsored a new Minnesota law, HF3971, referred to as “Maya’s Law,” which would require that child welfare interviews occur without the alleged abuser being present. To force children to tell child welfare investigators their experiences of abuse with alleged abusers present “is incredibly problematic,” argued Rep. Becker-Finn. She continued by saying that “it does not allow us to really get to the heart of what’s going on to keep children protected.”

The Minnesota House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee approved the bill on March 17, 2022. The bill was then sent to Minnesota’s House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee. If the bill becomes law, officials (1) would no longer interview children with their abuser present, (2) would interview the child before interviewing the alleged abuser or the child’s guardian or school officials, (3) would allow officials to interview the child without a guardian’s permission, and (4) require that interviews with children in foster care who are five years of age or older occur without the foster parents being present.

Stolen Childhood: A Call for the Protection of Paraguayan Children from Sexual Abuse

Disclaimer: The following article contains information about child abuse, rape, sexual assault, and other distressing topics.

Every year, travelers from around the world flock to South American countries to visit some of the world’s most popular travel destinations, such as Machu Picchu in Perú, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, and Patagonia in Chile and Argentina. Paraguay, a landlocked country that lies at the heart of South America, is often skipped over by travelers who do not recognize the rich culture Paraguay has to offer. For people who have experienced the Paraguayan way of life, they quickly learn the importance of drinking tereré, eating asado on Sundays, and speaking Guaraní, the indigenous language.

Although Paraguay is a beautiful country, it has one of the highest child sexual abuse rates in South America.[1] Countries often do not know the actual number of children who fall victim to sexual abuse because the crime often goes unreported. However, in 2020, Amnesty International found that Paraguayan authorities “did not implement sufficient and effective measures to prevent, identify, and address cases” concerning child abuse.[2] Even with the ineffective identification of child abuse cases, in the first nine months of 2020, the Paraguayan Public Prosecutor’s Office registered 1,877 child abuse reports.[3] The Paraguayan Coordination Group for the Rights of Children and Adolescents (CDIA) reported that every two hours an act involving sexual violence against a minor is registered.[4]

Oftentimes, girls become pregnant due to sexual abuse.[5] Overall, Paraguay “has one of the highest rates of child and teen pregnancy in Latin America, a region that, as a whole, has the second-highest rates in the world.”[6] In 2017, Paraguay’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare reported that every day two girls under the age of 15 give birth in Paraguay, but the number is likely higher.[7]

The Paraguayan government needs to address child abuse and the child pregnancies that result from such abuse because child pregnancies negatively impact girls. According to the World Health Organization, child pregnancies present an extreme danger to a girl’s health, including the possibility of complications and death.[8] In March 2018 alone, three girls in Paraguay, aged 10, 14, and 16 died due to pregnancy complications, two of which died during childbirth.[9] The 14-year-old girl died during childbirth after a 37-year-old man raped her.[10]

Unfortunately, the Paraguayan government’s conservative viewpoints leave children vulnerable to sexual violence and unintended pregnancies due to the country’s lack of comprehensive sexual education and access to contraceptives.[11] Evidence shows that sexual education greatly helps prevent and detect sexual abuse.[12] Sexual education equips girls with the knowledge necessary to recognize and alert others to sexual abuse.[13]

The normalization of child motherhood and sexual violence, due in part to the hyper-sexualization of girls, is yet another reason for the high rates of child pregnancy. Paraguayan society has normalized sexual violence by accepting relationships between young girls, even girls under the age of 14, and adult men.[14] ​​Most pregnant Paraguayan girls become pregnant after sexual violence perpetrated by their stepfathers, fathers, grandfathers, neighbors, and uncles.[15] For girls who become pregnant, Paraguayan society views them as capable of being mothers even though they themselves are still children.[16] Ultimately, Paraguay’s “limited availability of and access to victim protection services” results in young girls experiencing high rates of sexual violence and pregnancy due to the underreporting of violence by members of the girls’ communities who know men are perpetrating violence against girls.[17]

Article 34 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) discusses how countries, including Paraguay, agree to “undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.”[18] The Paraguayan government has not taken appropriate measures presented in the CRC to prevent “the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity.”[19] It is our duty as an international community to ensure the protection of all children from sexual abuse in Paraguay and across the world.


[1] Paola Giménez, Gender-Based Violence in Paraguay: The Other Pandemic, Educ. Int’l (Dec. 1, 2020), https://www.ei-ie.org/en/item/23613:16dayscampaign-gender-based-violence-in-paraguay-the-other-pandemic-by-paola-gimenez-otep-autentica.

[2] Paraguay 2020, Amnesty Int’l, https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/americas/south-america/paraguay/report-paraguay/ (last visited Jan. 6, 2022).

[3] Id.

[4] CDIA, Twitter (May 28, 2020), https://twitter.com/CDIApy/status/1266143401537417217.

[5] Will Costa, Paraguay: indigenous girl’s murder fires public outrage at child sexual abuse, Guardian (July 17, 2020, 6:00 EDT), https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jul/17/paraguay-child-sexual-abuse-violence-pregnancy.

[6] Id.

[7] Embarazo adolescente, problemática que convoca al Gobierno, Ministerio de Salud Pública y Bienestar Social (May 7, 2017), https://www.mspbs.gov.py/portal/11914/embarazo-adolescente-problematica-que-convoca-al-gobierno.html.

[8] Human rights: Paraguay has failed to protect a 10-year old girl child who became pregnant after being raped, say UN experts, United Nations Hum. Rts. Off. High Commissioner (May 11, 2015), https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15944&LangID=E .

[9] Santi Carneri, 14-year-old Paraguayan teenager victim of sexual abuse dies giving birth, El País (Mar. 22, 2018), https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/03/22/america/1521679648_160731.html.

[10] Margaret Wurth, 14, Pregnant from Rape, Dead in Childbirth, Hum. Rts. Watch, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/03/26/14-pregnant-rape-dead-childbirth (last visited Jan. 3, 2022).

[11] Costa, supra note 5; Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean, Guttmacher Inst. (Mar. 2018), https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/factsheet/ib_aww-latin-america.pdf.

[12] Demand Comprehensive Sex Education in Paraguay, Amnesty Int’l, https://www.amnesty.org/en/petition/exige-educacion-integral-sexualidad-paraguay/.

[13] Id.

[14] They are girls, not mothers: Steps to Ending Sexual Violence Against Children and Adolescents and Forcing Girls into Motherhood in Paraguay, Amnesty Int’l, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr45/5031/2021/en/.

[15] William Costa, Average of two girls aged 10 to 14 give birth daily in Paraguay, Amnesty finds, Guardian (Dec. 1, 2021), https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/nov/30/paraguay-child-teen-pregnancies.

[16] Laurence Blair & Santi Carneri, ‘It destroyed the girl she was’: the toll of pregnancy on Paraguay’s children, Guardian (July 19, 2018, 3:30 EDT), https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jul/13/destroyed-girl-she-was-toll-pregnancy-paraguay-children

[17] Amnesty International, supra note 14.

[18] Convention on the Rights of the Child Art. 34, Nov. 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3.

[19] Id.

The United States Must Address the Issue with the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

The U.S. is the only advanced nation that has not set a minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction below which children cannot be arrested or taken to court.[1] Furthermore, most U.S. states do not have a set minimum age of prosecution in juvenile courts. There are 22 U.S. states and territories that do have specific minimum ages for delinquency adjudication:

  • California and Massachusetts have a minimum age of 12 by statute
  • Nebraska has a minimum age of 11 by statute
  • Fifteen states / territories have a minimum age of 10 by statute: American Samoa, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin
  • Washington state has a minimum age of 8.
  • Connecticut and New York have a minimum age of 7
  • North Carolina has a minimum age of 6 [2]

All the U.S. states that do have a minimum age for delinquency adjudication are below the international standard. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) does not have a specified age of criminal responsibility, but the most common minimum age of criminal responsibility in States parties that have ratified the CRC is 14.[3]

The U.S. states with the highest set minimum age of delinquency adjudication is set at age 12. Evidence in the field of child development indicates that children who are 12 and 13 years old are still evolving in areas of maturity and the capacity of abstract reasoning. Therefore, it is unlikely they understand the impact of their actions or comprehend criminal proceedings. Children under the age of 14 are not culpable for their behavior in the same way as adults or older adolescents.[4]

Without having an appropriate minimum age standard in the U.S., the procedures for determining which young children are mature enough for formal court processing have proven inconsistent and discriminatory.[5]

Entering children into the juvenile justice system is traumatic and can lead to damaging collateral consequences, such as:

  • Barriers to education and employment,
  • Fines and fees,
  • Risk to immigration status,
  • Physical and sexual abuse,
  • Suicide, and
  • Disruptions to mental and physical development that incarcerated children experience [6]

The U.S. needs to implement an acceptable minimum age standard in order to reduce these drastic consequences for children that may not be criminally culpable for their actions and ensure children receive just punishments for their actions.


[1] https://yclj.org/minimum-age

[2] https://njdc.info/practice-policy-resources/state-profiles/multi-jurisdiction-data/minimum-age-for-delinquency-adjudication-multi-jurisdiction-survey/

[3] Committee on the Rights of the Child, General comment No. 24 (2019) on children’s rights in the child justice system

[4] https://yclj.org/minimum-age

[5] https://yclj.org/minimum-age

[6] https://www.njjn.org/our-work/raising-the-minimum-age-for-prosecuting-children