Child abuse hotline calls up 16% in Fla.

New law makes failing to report abuse a 3rd-degree felony

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Calls to Florida's child abuse hotline are up 16 percent, not because there's more abuse, but because of a new law requiring people to report.

Failing to report child abuse is now a third-degree felony.

After news of the Jerry Sandusky scandal spread, Florida lawmakers got to work passing the toughest child abuse reporting laws in the county.

"We really have a chance to significantly reduce abuse in this state," Secretary of the Department of Children and Families David Wilkins said.

Wilkins was joined by child abuse survivor Lauren Book on Monday to unveil a program showing people how to spot child abuse victims.

"It's our moral obligation, and now it's our legal obligation," Book said.

Book walks the state every year and teaches safety in schools.

She lobbied to stiffen penalties for not reporting abuse, increasing the punishment from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

Since the law's passage, calls to DCF's child abuse hotline have risen 16 percent, and hotline workers say more callers equals more points of view, giving DCF multiple perspectives on the same case or incident.

"So many of the calls are also data points, so it may not be a necessity to do an investigation at that point, but it may be collecting information that may be used to make a decision down the road," Wilkins said.

DCF and Book are spreading the message through a campaign called Don't Miss the Signs.

Despite all her success, Book isn't ready to stop fighting.

"I don't know if I'm ever going to rest," she said. "I think I'm going to constantly be working on making this an issue that is important for the rest of our lives."

Book launched an online petition asking people to speak up for abused children.

The new law also creates a $1 million fine for colleges and universities whose administrators learn about abuse but don't tell the proper authorities.

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