Marci Hamilton on Faith Matters

ABC News Faith Matters

Marci Hamilton and Mark Chopko

Justice Denied author Marci Hamilton debates Mark Chopko, Attorney of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on civil Statues of Limitations — the focus of her book. Click the image to watch! Link opens in a new window.

Marci on Book-TV

Book-TV on CSPAN-2 broadcast a recent lecture by Marci Hamilton at Princeton University. They were also kind enough to link back to the video!

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The Cost of Abuse

Recent news media has swarmed over the high costs of Texas’ raid on the FLDS Zion ranch, and on placing hundreds of children in foster homes. What are the real costs, however? Crunch the numbers, says Marci Hamilton.

Recently, I debated Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff on NPR about his office’s failure to vigorously prosecute polygamists in his state, where it is well-known that underage girls are being subjected to polygamous marriage and underage sex. While Attorney General Shurtleff had to agree to the facts of the harm, his defense was that it is too expensive to pursue polygamists on child abuse charges. The headlines blaring the facts of the financial accounting in Texas — as if it were shocking that protecting children and defending litigation would cost money — provide an echo of such reasoning.

Abuse victims repeat the cycle. FDLS mothers are “single” mothers, collecting welfare on every child they have. Victims likely will not be as productive as they otherwise could be. Boys are dumped on corners. Studies in Minnesota have attempted to tackle the question of costs, but in her FindLaw column today, Marci argues that they’re much higher than the cost of enforcement.

The status quo [of non-enforcement] is not just a moral outrage, but also an irrational economic situation. The costs to society of sexual abuse are enormous: Victims suffer from drug addiction; alcoholism; mental illness, often rising to the level of disability; suicide, and broken marriages, and as workers may be less productive than they could have been. The harm does not just extend to the victims, but also to their families, their future families, and eventually the entire economy.

In 2007, Minnesota estimated the state’s costs of sexual violence in 2005 at almost $8 billion, or $1,540/resident. According to the report, moreover, these are a “fraction of the true costs.” Child sexual abuse was a significant component of the study; the costs of child sex abuse were deemed to average $184,000/victim, exceeding the cost of adult rape, which averaged $139,000/victim. And those are just the immediate costs arising out of a self-contained event of abuse, not the long-term and astronomical costs generated by continuing effects. Suffice it to say that, when we fail to deter or stop sexual abuse, we pay. A lot.

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The State of SOL Reform

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Marci Clarifies the Decisions of the Texas Courts’ Ruling on the FLDS

Why The Texas Supreme Court’s Ruling Regarding the FLDS Mothers Is Significantly More Protective of the Children Involved than the Media Have Painted It To Be

by Marci Hamilton for findlaw

Recently, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed the state’s Third Circuit appellate court’s ruling that Child Protective Services (CPS) lacked adequate evidence to justify taking all of the children from the FLDS’s Yearning for Zion compound. However, as I will explain, there are significant differences between the two rulings, which bode well for the endangered children of the FLDS.

The Texas Supreme Court Affirms that CPS Has Ongoing Jurisdiction

The lower appellate court’s decision might have been interpreted as divesting CPS of any ongoing involvement, for the court did not make it clear what role it thought either CPS or Judge Walther might play in the future. Accordingly, that decision was misread by some as a complete vindication of the parents and as an order to return the children to the compound as soon as possible. That is certainly how the public relations people for the FLDS played it. Indeed, they tried to go further and convince the news media that the decision showed that there never was any abuse in the first place. They were wrong.

The Texas Supreme Court made it clear that CPS’s investigation of abuse was far from over. Indeed, it made a point of listing the means by which the district court could further protect the children, even as they were permitted to return to the compound. The court pointed out that the Texas Family Code permitted the court “broad authority” to prohibit the removal of the children from a designated geographical area, to direct the removal of an alleged perpetrator from a child’s home, and to issue orders assisting CPS in its investigation. Then the court pointedly stated that the “Code prohibits interference with an investigation, and a person who relocates a residence or conceals a child with the intent to interfere with an investigation commits an offense.” Finally, the decision ended with the blunt statement that the appellate decision below “did not conclude the [CPS] proceedings.” CPS then followed up in the lower court with a number of suggested conditions for release that would further the ends of preventing relocation or concealment. (Judge Walther subsequently approved an agreement between the parties consistent with the limitations approved in the Supreme Court’s opinion. The parents may not take their children out of Texas, must keep the court informed of each child’s location, and may not interfere with further investigation, among other requirements.)

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Texas Appellate Court in the Wrong

Marci Hamilton finds that the state whose slogan is “Don’t Mess with Texas” messed up big time in their latest ruling regarding the custody of the children of the FLDS in Eldorado….

Last week, the Third Court of Appeals in Austin issued a very significant – and very seriously mistaken – ruling, In re Sara Steed et al.

The case involved 38 women from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), who challenged the state’s removal of all the children from their FLDS compound in Eldorado, Texas when authorities entered on the basis of reports that a 16-year-old girl was being physically and sexually abused.

They presented their dubious challenge as a petition for writ of mandamus – an extraordinary remedy that is only rarely granted. Yet the court ruled in favor of the women, and against the Texas child protection authorities.

That decision was not just wrong, but wrongheaded – for it applied the opposite approach to questions involving child abuse and religious entities than it should have: the court focused on religious belief while downplaying the actual conduct at issue. Fortunately, the state is now appealing to the Texas Supreme Court, and rightly so.

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Ignorance Is the Enemy of Children

Marci Hamilton gives us an op-ed about the shocking statistics of child abuse and progress being made in her home state of Pennsylvania.

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.

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