If Congress and the American people are truly serious about helping the victims of sexual abuse get the help they need, they can do something about it, and pretty fast. Congress needs to pass a law that suspends all state statutes of limitations laws on sex crimes for a period of 4 to 5 years. All the normally exempt organizations such as the federal government, Congress and state governments would be included in this legislation.
Minnesota passed a law like this several years ago allowing victims, blocked by arbitrary and purposely brief statutes of limitations to rethink, reevaluate and file or refile actions against perpetrators and predators.
Right now, predators and perpetrators as well as well-meaning but uninformed citizens jumped to erroneous conclusions when they hear that the victim has waited 40 years or longer to come forward. The nature of these crimes is so corrosive, perverse and powerful there probably should be no statute of limitations permitted at all, but that’s a debate for another day.
Current victims deserve the chance to begin recovery anew. Today those who come forward are questioned, doubted, re-victimized and consume countless hours, often to determining if these arbitrary statutes will be used to prevent the treatment, help and life-affirming reconnection victims could have with their lives.
Congress should do what Minnesota did, clear the deck, establish a direct and easily accessible process. Perpetrators and predators have found statutes of limitations a powerful and destructive point of attack against victims. In addition, institutions such as universities, churches and public service organizations have come to rely on these statutes for protection.
Perpetrators and predators as well as those who support them, supply them, protect them and defend them need to have these protective statutes stripped away and suffer the consequences of their actions. Nobody escapes, no one is exempt, no foreign power can intervene to protect their purps.
As the extraordinary human devastation caused by sexual assault becomes more visible, palpable, and pervasive, this is the time to take the next step for the hundreds of thousands of children who aren’t famous, won’t be famous and can’t be famous. Now it’s their turn to seek the peace, credibility, protection, and a better life, and the ability to tell their own story, in their own words and voice.
One more thing, a national registry needs to be established that chronicles, counts and exposes all settlements paid for with tax dollars and for those circumstances which are crimes. No one is exempt.
By: James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, Fellow IABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, BEPS Emeritus, America’s Crisis Guru