There’s a big difference between being prayed for and preyed upon. That’s one of the many lessons moviegoers learned from the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” a couple years back about The Boston Globe journalism team that uncovered a child sexual abuse problem that extended well beyond a handful of bad priests.
The abuse scandal continues to rock the Catholic Church, even today, although we should be careful not to forget such heinous, innocence-destroying acts aren’t limited to a single group.
The Crimes Against Children Research Center, part of the University of New Hampshire, has found that 1-in-20 boys are victims of sexual abuse. It’s far worse for girls, however, where 1-in-5 are victimized.
And that’s just what’s reported. The shame and fear that floods a sexual abuse victim traumatizes these children into long-term silence, many well into adulthood — if not forever. It easily could take years for a victim to seek justice, yet in New York, if you don’t recover enough by the time you’re 23, you’re out of luck.
Statute of limitations are important, especially in our criminal system of innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. As trial attorney Matthew McMahon told The Press this week, as time wears on, evidence disappears, memories morph or fade and witnesses die.
That is solid reasoning to have some sort of statute of limitation in place. But let’s be frank — five years into adulthood is simply too short of a span. A decade, maybe 15 or even 20 years would be far more ideal.
And we’re not opposed to lifting the statute of limitation completely, despite the struggles courts might have in prosecuting very old cases.
The belief that we should maintain a statute of limitation out of fear criminal cases will flood the court, however, is simply ridiculous. That should never be an excuse not to pursue criminals, especially those who target children.
We lose so much to bureacracy and red tape as it is. Refusing to bring abusers to justice simply because the courts are too busy is one of the primary reasons so many people have little faith in our judiciary.
If these cases load up the courts, then they load up the courts. These victims have just as much right to seek legal closure as anyone else, and they shouldn’t be swept aside simply because some antiquated law already has been doing it for far too long.
If abusers get a pass because we can’t find a path to justice, then who goes free next? Murderers? Rapists? Some of our worst violent offenders?
Imagine if prosecutors refused to go after Charles Manson because there wasn’t any room on the docket?
Maybe we shouldn’t equate child abusers to murderers. But for many victims of sexual assault, there really isn’t much of a difference.
These victims deserve justice, not silly excuses designed to do nothing more than finally give them their day in court.