Posts Tagged statutes of limitation
I have interviewed many survivors of child sexual abuse over many years, but this was the first time I had ever interviewed a survivor who was also a politician. State Representative Mark Rozzi sat behind his office desk at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. As he spoke he fidgeted with a small figurine he kept on his desk — a little dog with four heads, all snarling — a gift from a fellow survivor. We were discussing his long fight trying to pass legislation to make it easier for survivors to press charges and file lawsuits against their abusers.
“Well into the interview I asked him to tell me what had happened to him as a child. ‘The abridged version,’ I said. I had read his story elsewhere, but needed to hear it directly from him, even though I knew it would not play a big part in the article I planned to write. I figured that as a politician, he would have a well-practiced, pithy rendition.
“Twenty-five minutes of unrelenting trauma later, we had still gotten only as far as high school. Then, just as Mr. Rozzi was saying, “I’m going to tell you something I have never talked about to a reporter” — at that very moment — there was a knock at the door and his executive assistant came in to tell us that another legislator was waiting in the vestibule. Interview over.
“As I rushed to gather up my notebook, laptop and recorder, I realized I had no idea what he was about to reveal, but I had just gotten the answer to another question I am often asked: Why does the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church never seem to go away? Why is it still a story? It has been 31 years since National Catholic Reporter, an independent Catholic publication, broke the first story, about a serial abuser in Louisiana. It has been 22 years since I reported my first article about abusive priests (out on an Indian pueblo in New Mexico, for The Washington Post). Why is the news media still covering this?
“The answer lies with the victims.”
By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times — Click here to read the rest of this story.
This story reports the first settlement reached under new Minnesota law that extends time allowed to bring lawsuits in child sexual abuse cases.
More than 40 years after being sexually abused by a Catholic priest in St. Paul, Jon Jaker claimed a groundbreaking victory for himself and other abuse victims Wednesday (Aug. 20).
Accompanied by his 84-year-old mother, Jaker, 54, announced he had reached a financial settlement with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the first payout under a new law that temporarily extends the time in which such clergy abuse lawsuits can be brought to court.”
By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune — Click here to read the rest of this story.
Fierce Opposition by the Catholic Church Helps Block Bill to Allow Sex Abuse Victims More Time to Sue / Los Angeles Times
A bill that would give some sex abuse victims more time to file lawsuits, which has drawn fierce opposition from the Catholic Church, failed to get enough support Wednesday (Aug. 14) to make it out of a key legislative committee. The bill, which needed nine votes to leave the lower house’s appropriations committee and go to the Assembly floor, mustered only six. Four committee members opposed the bill and seven did not weigh in after an emotional hearing that included testimony from a lobbyist who is also a sex abuse survivor.” By Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times
Read Powers’s entire article, “Bill to Allow Sex Abuse Victims More Time to Sue Fails to Advance,” by clicking here.
The Catholic Church is battling statute of limitation reform in New Jersey with paid lobbyists, and at least two editorials are wondering where the justice in this lies:
Catholic Church leaders are sparing no expense to try to stop legislation that would make it easier for victims of sexual abuse to seek damages in court – a move that sends a strange message at a time when many Catholics are calling for reform within the church bureaucracy and an honest accounting of past actions. Click here to read entire editorial, “Sexual-Abuse Lawsuits / Unseemly Battle,” in Press of Atlantic City.
What if, during his recent travels with a couple of Catholic youth groups, the Rev. Michael Fugee had a relapse and groped another child? There’s no evidence that happened, but it’s a legitimate concern. There’s a reason prosecutors made him promise never to work with children again. Years from now, what if a child says Fugee crossed a line? Click here to read entire editorial, “The Bishop’s Big Guns in Trenton,” in the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
Who Is Fighting for Justice for Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors Through Statutes of Limitations Reform?
Leading Church/state scholar Marci Hamiltion writes in today’s “Verdict” online blog: ‘The movement to eliminate the child-sex-abuse statutes of limitations (“SOLs”) so that victims can obtain justice is stronger and more impressive than ever. Never before has there been so much activity in so many states at once. Last year, Hawaii enacted a 2-year window, and a few other states expanded their SOLs. (Such bills allow claims that would otherwise have been timed out, to be revived and brought to court during a specified period of time.) This year, windows, the extension, or elimination of SOLs are pending in many states, including Minnesota, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey. Plus Arkansas already eliminated its criminal SOL. This is progress!'”
Read the rest of Ms. Hamilton’s “Who Is Afraid of Justice of Child Sex Abuse Victims, and Who Is Fighting for It?” by clicking here.
Statute of limitations is the main stumbling block to prosecuting Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and aides in the sex abuse files from the 1980s released this week, experts say … A nearly insurmountable barrier is the statute of limitations. A quarter-century has passed since Mahony and his chief aide for sex abuse cases, Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, wrote memos outlining strategies to prevent police investigations of three priests who had admitted abusing boys. The 1986 and 1987 letters fall decades beyond the three-year statute of limitations for felonies such as child endangerment, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit those offenses.” By Harriet Ryan, Ashley Powers and Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times
Two incidents on opposite sides of the world have recently underscored the disparity in views on the reform of child sex abuse statutes of limitation, which Roman Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful® has long sought as a means for abuse victims to receive justice.
In Pennsylvania, the Bucks County district attorney’s Task Force on Child Protection, set up 13 months ago following former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky’s indictment on child molestation charges, completed its report. Nowhere does the report recommend statute of limitation reform, according to news reports, even though experts have repeatedly pointed out the significant time lapse between when child abuse occurs and when adult survivors recall and report abuse. The task force recommended to the state legislature extensive changes in child abuse laws, covering everything from handling information about allegations to training of those responsible for children’s welfare, without ever mentioning statutes of limitation. As a result, the task force missed the single greatest opportunity for gaining justice for abuse survivors. Nor is Pennsylvania the only state where these laws must be changed.
On the other side of the world, in Australia, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, recently stated that no one, not even Catholic clergy, should be allowed to use statutes of limitations to escape justice. Archbishop Hart is reported as saying, “The evil of sexual abuse is so serious and so awful that the only way in which the victims will come to any sense of peace is if their matter can be dealt with by the offender being brought to justice.”
Anne Cossins, a child sexual abuse expert at the University of New South Wales, backed Hart’s opinion when she said, “It might take an 8-year-old 10 years before they feel safe enough to tell people for the first time, particularly given the secrecy that surrounds the abuse and the degree of coercion the children are subject to.”
The vast extent of Australia’s clergy sexual abuse scandal has been unfolding over the past few months, as evidence has been presented to a parliamentary inquiry. Victoria’s police, for example, have accused the Church of failing to report allegations of clergy sexual abuse, destroying evidence and putting its reputation above the welfare of children.
Despite accusations that Australia’s leading prelate, Cardinal George Pell, has displayed an appalling lack of empathy for child abuse victims, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Australia, under extreme pressure, may be coming around on statute of limitation reform. This is not the case in Pennsylvania where the legislature apparently is yielding to pressure from, among others, Archbishop Charles Chaput and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which has steadfastly lobbied against such reform.
Voice of the Faithful® is left wondering when state governments and the Catholic Church will employ such an obvious vehicle for justice and healing.