There are 3 significant reasons to eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual abuse:
1. The psychological shame that prevents victims of sexual abuse from reporting, sometimes for decades,
2. The perverse incentive in the law that rewards institutions when they discourage, silence and cover-up reports of abuse, and
3. The system being unable to pursue abusers teaching right now – unnamed, uninvestigated but known. The provision for the retroactive window protects students. The CVA works to remove these barriers:
Justice requires we recognize the pain victims struggle with that prevents reporting:
Many victims may choose to live with their pain hoping to forget the experience in time. From reading accounts of Horace Mann victims from their own hand, I’ve learned that when they finally, after decades, choose to report, it is not because the memories have suddenly erupted like a recovered memory. They report because the memory has never left them. It visits their sleep in nightmares; they remember it every morning when they wake; it haunts them every day; when they know that the unbearable will not be relieved, they have nothing more to lose than to speak out the truth.
Justice requires we remove the perverse incentive the current SOL provides to schools to silence reporting… at the very time it would be most effective:
We now know that many victims did report abuse to the administration from the late 1960’s through the 90’s only to be turned away and ignored. The SOL for schools is only 3 years. When a sophomore reports abuse and the school stalls them, by graduation the school is no longer accountable.
So even those victims with the self-assurance and confidence and tough courage to report were only to be dismissed by the institution and discouraged in their pursuit of justice. No law can strictly prevent institutions from hiding timely reports, but it CAN remove an incentive. Since a cover-up may last decades, the statue of limitations facilitates institutional cover-up.
The current SOL prevents the arm of the law from extending beyond the walls of institutions like Horace Mann that conceal and cover up sexual abuse and discourages victims from reporting enduringly hurtful crimes. Neither the abusers nor their protector and facilitator institutions should be allowed to hide behind a statute that serves harmful, dangerous people and unjust institutions.
Justice requires we address abusers still teaching, hidden in the backlog of cases:
Beyond the removal of the SOL, the retroactive window is essential so that abusers now teaching can be identified. As it is now, the DA or police cannot fully investigate accounts out of statute. As a result, abusers remain unchecked and unknown to the public. Children remain at risk.
The DA is better able to investigate crimes than a school principal, but when the SOL prevents charges, the process ends. In NY, once an abuser’s crimes are 5 years old, he can teach your child without you even knowing — without accountability. Making civil action available would at least uncover risks hiding close by. Victims should not bear the burden alone to speak out. Our schools and institutions must be accountable to report abuse when it occurs. And speak about it openly.
In sum, victim shame, school cover-up, disabled authorities – all three are enlisted by institutions as they game the system to buy silence for reputation over safety. The price is paid by further victims. Urge your legislator to pass the Child Victim’s Act, A2872 / S63.