- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota should change laws regarding the way child sexual abuse is reported and continue studying how to curtail such abuse, a state task force recommended on Monday.

The Jolene’s Law Task Force voted to send policy recommendations to the Legislature that would fund the committee to continue its work in 2015 and to make changes to mandatory reporting laws that would help make abuse allegations clearer. The group’s leader, Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, said that the person who first hears an abuse allegation needs to be involved when it is reported so the account doesn’t become jumbled as it is passed between people and on to authorities.

Casey Murschel, chapter coordinator for the Child Advocacy Centers of South Dakota, said that the law changes are necessary because child abuse is underreported and it has long-lasting negative consequences for victims.

The task force was created by the Legislature and is made up of legislators, child sexual abuse experts and other state officials. It is named after Jolene Loetscher, of Sioux Falls, who was a victim of sexual abuse as a teenager and has talked publicly about her story.

Soholt said that the task force needs to take a deeper look next year at how to increase education about child abuse and to prepare a long-term plan to deal with it.

“This is a very serious public health issue,” Soholt said. “It’s our children. And for every child that’s a victim of sexual abuse, what a tragedy.”

Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who will put forward his budget proposal on Tuesday, said he hadn’t yet seen the group’s recommendations.

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