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End to Statute of Limitations on Child Abuse

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The Stop Abuse Campaign believes in an end to statute of limitations on child sexual abuse. All victims, everywhere, need to be given the same opportunities to seek  justice and allowed to face and prosecute their abusers. Ending limitations gives survivors of child sexual abuse the opportunity to stand before a court of law and in front of their abuser, and prove a case, just as any other victim of crime currently has the right to do. Here at the campaign we like to remind everyone that there are no statute of limitations on a parking ticket, don’t pay it and it follows you for your entire life. Sexually abuse a child, and in most states, 5-7 years after you turn 18, the abuser is off the hook, leaving victims re-abused and denied any opportunity at justice. Leaving the abuser free to continue abusing our children for rest of their life.’

There are states currently fighting to end or amend these limitations but they are up against powerful forces deeply funded and better organized.  The Stop Abuse Campaign is committed to changing this legislation at a federal level, so that all victims everywhere are granted the same rights. 

This Op-ed in the New York Times puts the statute of limitations in focus through the high profile child rape case(s) of Jerry Sandusky. We can do better for victims of child sexual abuse and The Stop Abuse Campaign is committed to making this a national discussion that turns into legislation that protects victims and allows justice to be sought out.

The Stop Abuse Campaign relies on you, our grassroots community, to fully support our efforts by taking the pledge and becoming members. Because without your support, nothing will change. The support of individuals and groups who entrust their belief in our purpose and the promise it holds. To these indispensable members of our extended family, we ask that they express that belief in a tangible commitment. All we ask is $1.00 a month, $12.00 a year to show you believe the first right of every victim of abuse is to not be abused and that by all of us working together we can stop abuse here in America in 25 years.


Humiliation, Shame and Fear


Jerry Sandusky on the first day of his child sexual abuse trial in Bellefonte, Pa., Monday, June 11, 2012

On this first day of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial, the prosecutor, Joseph McGettigan, put the following words up on a screen: humiliation, shame and fear. Those are the reasons it almost always takes a long time for abused children to come forward, if they ever do, perhaps especially boys raped by older men.

As Richard B. Gartner said on our Op-Ed page on June 7: “Even in 2012, we are socialized to think that ‘real men’ should be resilient, and certainly not victims. For a man to acknowledge sexual victimhood, even to himself, is to say he is not really male.”

Mr. Sandusky’s trial will focus on alleged abuse that took place between 1994 and 2009. Lawyers have heard from at least one alleged Sandusky victim who can’t sue because he missed the statute of limitations cut off by nine months.

Pennsylvania actually has a relatively lenient age limit for filing child sex abuse charges—30 for civil cases and 50 for criminal cases. In New York, a victim only has five years after his or her 18th birthday to lodge a complaint. Turn 23, and the justice system shrugs.

The Times Magazine recently published a story on child sex abuse at the Horace Mann School in New York City. Most of the accused teachers are dead. But since the incidents took place in the 1970s and 1980s they would not be subject to criminal prosecution or civil suit anyway.

Statutes of limitation exist for sound reasons – after the passage of many years evidence can be hard to come by and memory isn’t always reliable. But we can’t treat child abuse exactly like other crimes. We can’t expect an 11-year-old boy to report what was done to him quickly, or even before he turns 23, especially if he has to reckon with a powerful institution—like Penn State, or the Roman Catholic Church—with an interest in covering up possible crimes.

A few states are revisiting deadlines for child sex abuse cases. We noted on the editorial page that Hawaii recently extended its statute of limitations on civil lawsuits. So did Delaware and California.

Reformers have introduced extension legislation in New York as well, but New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan is doing his utmost to ensure that it never becomes law. He said the measure unfairly targets the Catholic Church and would be “devastating for the life of the Church.” It seems the cardinal wants to protect the “life of the Church” while denying justice for children who were abused while under its protection.

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