A Mid-Year Report on Child Sex Abuse Victims’ Access to Justice in 2015

Updated:
Posted in: Criminal Law

There is good news and bad news for victims of child sex abuse who seek to enter the justice system in 2015. As a general matter across the United States, we are on the right track and headed in the right direction. But there is a great deal of work left to do.

The most remarkable leap forward: Georgia. Before May 5, 2015, the date when Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law the Hidden Predator Act (HPA), Georgia was among the five worst states in the country for child sex abuse victims’ access to justice. The statutes of limitations (“SOLs”) in the civil context shut down all claims by age 23 and on the criminal side, only opened the door for crimes after July 1, 2012. That meant civil suits and prosecutions for child sex abuse have been rare occurrences in Georgia.

That changes on July 1, 2015, when the HPA goes into effect. The HPA moves Georgia into one of the better states in the country. It creates a two-year window (during which defendants do not have the benefit of the statute of limitation as a defense) for the victim to sue the perpetrator. It also institutes a new discovery rule, which permits victims to sue perpetrators and/or institutions for abuse and cover ups. Victims will have two years from the date they understand that their current problems were caused by the childhood sexual abuse to go to court. While there are better SOL laws in the country, and most specifically, Delaware and Minnesota, which have eliminated civil and criminal SOLs for all defendants, and given victims a window, it still catapults Georgia ahead of the other four deplorable states on this issue, New York, Michigan, Alabama, and Mississippi.

A more predictable result: Utah. Utah also made some progress, though it is all against the perpetrator. As of March 2015, for all abuse into the future, civil claims will not be subject to an SOL against the perpetrator. The bill started out as one against perpetrator and institution. Yet, as expected, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ensured that the same civil extension could not be applied to institutions that employ pedophiles or that cover up for them. The same age 22 limit that was in place before remains, making Utah one of the most restrictive regimes for bringing institutions that harbor abusers to justice.

The stalling continues: New York and Pennsylvania. As I mention above, New York is one of the four worst states in the country for child sex abuse victims. None of the paths that other states have traveled to increase justice for victims has worked in New York. Neither the courts nor the legislature has lifted a finger to help these victims obtain meaningful civil justice. Reform bills have been introduced year in and year out, with the Assembly passing the Child Victims Act numerous times, but an SOL revival bill has never gotten a fair hearing in the Senate, let alone a vote on the floor. Gov. Cuomo has shown less leadership on this issue than seems humanly possible. Who is pulling the strings in Albany? On this issue, it would be the Catholic bishops and primarily Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City. Given his tattered reputation after he tried to hide $55 million from the victims in his previous location, Milwaukee, one wonders why members defer to him on this issue. Suffice it to say that New York is a national disgrace on these issues.

Pennsylvania did extend its civil SOL in recent years to age 30, but it did not revive expired claims, which left the vast majority of victims locked out of court. Again, the reason Pennsylvania is stuck is that legislators slavishly defer to the Catholic bishops and ignore the cries of the victims.

Michigan, Alabama, and Mississippi have made either futile or doomed efforts to increase access, which means there is every reason to expect that the four worst in the country will stay right there for the immediate future. What is lacking is leadership in the interest of the children in each state. This can change.

As we saw in Georgia this spring, with Rep. Jason Spencer, Sen. Renee Unterman, and Gov. Nathan Deal leading the way, there is no need to stay at the bottom of the heap when it comes to child protection.

Posted in: Criminal Law, Injury Law

Tags: Legal

  • mference

    PA won’t help children sexually abused until the Sicilian mob gives its okay. Then and only then will Reps Marsico and Caltigarone be permitted to give victims a chance. I consider the Sicilian Mob and the Roman Coward Church to be one in the same.

  • Empirical1

    Addressing the broader issues beyond this news report, scientific studies based on legitimate empirical evidence do not support the mass hysteria and moral panic that currently surrounds sexually expressed child/older person relationships, which are invariably cast as “child sex abuse/pedophilia.” As masturbation and homosexuality were demonized in the past, these irrational emotional responses are based on ignorance and fear, and are promoted by agenda-driven “victimological” academics who argue that all such relationships are intrinsically pervasively harmful. But is this supposed harm intrinsic to the interaction, or does it instead result from the social hysteria that occurs when such a relationship is discovered? Also, there are no legitimate data supporting intrinsic harmfulness, and no credible pathway or mechanism for such harm has been demonstrated. For further discussion, see http://www.shfri.net/mech/mech.cgi

    There are indeed some people who trick or force children into unwanted sexual interactions. But there are vast differences between consensual sexually expressed child/older person relationships and unilateral “child sexual abuse” by an older person. For a scientific journal discussion of these distinctions as they apply to boys, go to http://www.boyandro.info

  • DrRosemaryEileenMcHugh

    As a family physician who is Catholic, I am saddened by the attitude of the hierarchy in my Church toward victims of clergy sexual abuse! Jesus asked us all to protect the innocence of children. Pope Francis and the bishops continue to cover up and to protect the sexual predator clergy + re-victimize the victims in court through their lawyers. How can these men say they follow Jesus when they ignore the commands of Jesus?

  • DrRosemaryEileenMcHugh

    To my understanding, the Catholic Church leaders are the major group blocking statute of limitations reforms, thereby blocking justice for the victims. Having met many who have been sexually abused by clergy, the damage is lifelong. Why are the hierarchy not being good shepherds? Why are police, lawyers, judges, politicians, and parents allowing the Church to be a haven for rapists, which is putting more children at risk of being raped?

  • carolineredbrook

    I am confused by your article as, on the contrary, Alabama appears to be a leader in the field and does not take the committing of sexual crimes against children lightly. There is and has been no statute of limitation for sexual crimes committed against a minor 12 years or under. Alabama has recently handed down sentences giving two perpetrators sentences totaling nearly 1,000 years between the two. We read of arrests of pedophiles in the state on an almost daily basis, it seems. Pedophilia is certainly not taken lightly in this state. And I say this as someone who has someone dear to me who, after 20 years, courageously came forward and accused his perpetrator, as he said, “To save other little boys from becoming victims.” The Grand Jury found probable cause and that now formally charged pedophile, Sylvain Kustyan, formerly of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Mazingarbe, France, is now a fugitive from the law and thought to have fled the US to his native France.

  • Good news!

    Secret database protects paedophiles

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation keeps a sex offenders register that nobody outside the church is allowed to see, a former “elder” tells Panorama.

    Bill Bowen, who has spent his lifetime as a Jehovah’s Witness and nearly twenty years as an elder, says the organisation covers up abuse by keeping this database secret.

    His sources indicate there are 23,720 abusers on the list – who are protected by the system.

    “They [the Jehovah’s Witnesses] do not want people to know that they have this problem”, he tells Panorama.

    “And by covering it up they just hurt one person. By letting it out, then they hurt the image of the church.” […]

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/panorama/2119903.stm

  • “It also institutes a new discovery rule, which permits victims to sue perpetrators and/or institutions for abuse and cover ups”.

    That’s the question!

  • daniel.sanchez

    You don’t calm down a dog by shaming it and continuing to kick it, that just makes it meaner. I know harsh punishments and public shaming makes you feel better Marci, but unfortunately its not the way to the solution. Jesus taught us that. Remove dangerous people from society, yes. But for everyone else, we are interested in them not doing that again. Heaping on shame and harsher punishments does not achieve that goal. Keeping peoples faces and names alive on the registry only keeps the incident alive, only reminds the victim, and thwarts healing and moving on. So you find that a “sex offender” lives in your neighborhood. Do you know what you can do about it? Nothing. Are you gonna tell your kids, “stay away from that house!” Yeah, that’ll work, you just gave the issue more mystery and curiosity. Meanwhile you have no idea who that person is, what they have gone through or the specifics of their crime and life situation. It is utterly foolish!! Registires and harsher laws perpetuate the problem. The truth is EX-victims HATE the registry. It only serves as a reminder of the incident. They are working hard to be EX-victims so that they can lead a healthy happy life. Everyone knows living life as a victim is not the way. But we use victims and children as a way to rally support for our own selfish need to publicly shame and punish. It good for political elections and we somehow feel better. But it’s the modern day version of the public square and is in the opposite direction of where the Solution is found. Shame on us and shame on you Marci for perpetuating it!!

  • John James

    We were raped in criminal Albany catholic dioceses by janitor gene Hubert who ran sex ring out of school father me cure also and father Bentley who he and 3 other priest raped Curtis oath out from 9-16years old. Curtis ended up raping girls and is in prison. This is what are parents money bought us. And dioceses has not paid for their crimes thanks to criminal bishop Hubbard for 40 years and corrupt politicians are to blame. Senator skielos and klein and Flanagan should be investigated we asked for skielos in 2010 he is arrested and klein and Flanagan we asked to be investigated also