No one wants to think about child sex abuse if they don’t have to. I can think of a thousand things I wold rather think about. But once good people learn the truth about such abuse, it is impossible to put out of mind.
Experts indicate that 20% of boys and 25% of girls are sexually abused – with only 10% ever going to the authorities. The suffering of victims is extraordinary, and typically leads to addictions, lifelong difficulties with personal relationships, broken families, and suicide.
So we need to stop predators, and there have been many approaches tried and adopted – from sex offender registries and GPS monitoring to longer sentences and even the death penalty in some states. So why can’t we sit back, secure in the knowledge that we have done everything possible?
Because the current approaches rest on quicksand. Every one presumes we know the identities of the predators – we don’t, because our legal system bars most victims from the courthouse.
The barrier is the arbitrary statutes of limitations for child sex abuse, and the fact that victims typically need till their forties to come forward. These two factors work synergistically to create a system that supports the anonymity of operating predators.
These are facts that every legislator needs to know so that they can do what is necessary to protect our children. In California and Delaware, windows of opportunity have been opened for victims, which eliminated all statute of limitations bars for a year (CA) or two (DE), and have proven to be the most effective means of identifying the perpetrators in our midst – over 300 new names in California and over 15 to date in Delaware.
The Pennsylvania legislature is now considering H 1137, which would do the same. The bill is stalled in committee. The failure to enact such reform – given the information we know – is a choice to keep the predators out of court and the victims silent.
Marci’s concerns and statistics are backed up in this story from Tuesday, May 20th’s Minnesota Post.
Marci Hamilton is a resident of Washington Crossing, PA and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (June, 2008).