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Dueling Decisions

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How Y.U. Won $680M Abuse Case on Same Issue Another School Lost

Appeals Court Unlikely To Allow Statute of Limitations Easing

By Melanie Blow commenting on an article in The Jewish Daily Forward

In a decision likely to affect the access child sex abuse victims in New York will have to civil remedies years after their alleged abuse, a federal appeals court will examine dueling decisions by judges in two recent high-profile child sex abuse lawsuits.

“Mulhearn persuaded a judge that the school’s cover-up of abuse and the positive statements it made about an abuser were enough to override the state’s statute of limitations.”

“It wasn’t that bad”

“No, that’s not what he did to you”

“You’re making that up”

“You’re a liar”

“I know him. He’d never do something like that”

“Don’t you think someone would have said something after all these years if that really was going on?”

“I’m sure there’s a good explanation for what actually happened”

“Nothing like that would ever happen here”

“He’s such a nice guy”

Most sex abuse survivors who speak out, especially while young, hear some version of this. It can be so much more convenient to believe a child is lying than it is to believe an adult is raping a child. Children lie, right? They get confused, they misunderstand things, they mis-speak, right? These are things that don’t shake our confidence in the way the world works. Believing a co-worker, friend, neighbor or relative could do something like that isn’t so convenient. Not believing the child means it’s OK to keep your friend, job, spouse, status-quo. It’s so tempting to quiet the accusing child rather than believe them.

I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know what specifically was significant about the “cover-ups and positive statements” made in the Poly-Prep case, versus the Yeshiva University case, versus in thousands of households every single day in every city in the US. But if every single instance of a non-offending adult making positive statements about an abuser in the face of an accusation, or saying “let’s wait and see what happens next”, was enough to waive the Statute of Limitations for the crime, there would be very little reason for us to bother changing the law.

We need to accept the facts about child sexual abuse. We need to believe that it is usually committed by people trusted by our kids, our communities and ourselves. We need to believe that children rarely lie about this. We need to believe that children rarely disclose the abuse right after it happens, and often not until adulthood. We need to believe that the damage committed by this crime is complex and massive, and we should never minimize or second-guess it. We need to believe that every child who is being abused is worth helping, even if that means doing something difficult or painful. We need to believe that we all can play a part in helping a child, changing a community, fixing broken laws and systems that hurt kids. Once we believe that, we’ve saved a lot of children.

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Melanie Blow is on the Board of Directors for Prevent Child Abuse NY and the New York Coalition to Protect Children. She leads the Stop Abuse Campaign’s campaign to eliminate Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse, and sits on the Rochester Area Coalition Against Human Trafficking. She blogs for the Stop Abuse Campaign and Prevent Child Abuse NY, has written for survivor magazines, parenting columns, and has had blogs and editorials published in local and national venues. She regularly testifies before the New York State legislator for children’s issues, and regularly provides educational talks about child sex abuse laws, child sex abuse prevention, and human trafficking.

Melanie Blow is on the Board of Directors for Prevent Child Abuse NY and the New York Coalition to Protect Children. She leads the Stop Abuse Campaign’s campaign to eliminate Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse, and sits on the Rochester Area Coalition Against Human Trafficking. She blogs for the Stop Abuse Campaign and Prevent Child Abuse NY, has written for survivor magazines, parenting columns, and has had blogs and editorials published in local and national venues. She regularly testifies before the New York State legislator for children’s issues, and regularly provides educational talks about child sex abuse laws, child sex abuse prevention, and human trafficking.

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