10 Reasons Why There Should Be No Statute of Limitation on Child Sex Crimes
If you want to break the law and get away with it, rape a child.
If you want even more protection under the law, first become ordained as a Catholic priest and make sure you commit your heinous offenses in a rapist-friendly state.
Statutes of Limitations force a time limit for crime victims to report to civil authorities what has happened to them. In many cases, such laws make sense.
If my neighbor clocks me and steals my purse later this afternoon, it would not be fair for me to wait 10, 20, or 30 years before I file a complaint with the police department. If the neighbor is a 15 year-old boy, it wouldn’t be fair for me to wait until he is a father of three, a tenured teacher, and an otherwise upstanding citizen to have him arrested, convicted, and possibly jailed.
The 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”
This, of course, assumes that people who commit crimes will, at some point, be investigated and arrested if indeed an arrest is deemed warranted by competent, fair, and impartial law enforcement officials.
There are crimes in which Statutes of Limitations do not apply. Some of those crimes are fraud upon the court, international and war crimes, and particularly heinous crimes such as murder. Where there is a series of crimes against the same person, such as the sexual abuse of a child, the clock on the statute of limitation may not begin until the date of the final criminal act.
The intent of Statutes of Limitations are generally to protect the defendant and, in many cases, are reasonable and fair.
I believe there ought to be a federal Statute of Limitation on illegal immigration. Millions of current residents of the United States came to this county illegally decades ago. The federal government has been aware of their presence and law-breaking for many, many years and has chosen not to enforce the federal immigration laws on the books. Because politicians and civil authorities have neglected to charge and/or deport men and women they have known to have come here illegally, those individuals and their children have had to “live in the shadows” for literally generations.
As a consequence, many residents who have come into the country through the back door will not report crimes – often violent crimes – out of fear of their own arrest or deportation. It is not unusual for illegal immigrants to remain silent when police officers ask for witnesses to come forward and share what they saw or what they know. In this case, having no Statute of Limitation creates a drag on the pursuit of justice, not the other way around. The government either needs to charge illegal immigrants within a reasonable period of time or relinquish its authority to do so. Instead, we take advantage of cheap labor and dangle over the laborers’ heads the threat of arrest. That is not only wrong, it is cruel.
On the other hand, there is a crime – or series of crimes – which often have Statutes of Limitations attached them and when they absolutely should not. That crime is child rape, without a doubt the most heinous of all offenses in the criminal code.
Following are 10 reasons why it is unjust for governments to place any time limits upon the prosecution of sex crimes against children:
1. The age and maturity-level of the victim often prevent him or her from reporting the crimes in a timely manner. Some child victims of criminal sexual abuse/assault are so young that they do not even have the vocabulary skills to describe what was done to them. They do not know the names of the body parts involved. They do not know the terminology of the sex acts that were perpetrated against them. Many do not even understand that what has been done to them is against the law or, for that matter, wrong. No child is too young to be sexually assaulted. Infants are raped and subjects of pornographic pictures and videotapes. Sometimes, their perpetrators are their own parents. So, how do the proponents of Statute of Limitations on child sex crimes expect these crime victims to come forward in a timely manner and describe to the cops what happened?
2. The fear factor often prevents children from reporting the crime(s) in a timely manner. One thing many child molesters and rapists have in common is a mastery of manipulation. They use fear and threats to silence their victims. They use the age differential, size differential, power differential, standing-in-society differential as forces to keep their subjects quiet. They tell the children, “It’s our little secret”. They warn the children, “If you tell your mother, it will kill her” or “No one will believe you”. Many child molesters go out of their way to show their victims how respected, trusted, and well-liked they are by members of their community – including the child’s parents. This gives the child little hope of being believed should he or she muster the courage to say something. The relationship between a rapist and his/her victim is comparable to a wolf and a lamb. Many adult victims fear for their lives. The term sexual assault includes the word assault for a reason. A child being raped is a child being assaulted and there is absolutely no reason to think that child isn’t also in fear of his or her own life. Courses in self-defense teach women that, if they are being raped or threatened with rape, to do whatever it takes to stay alive. If a serial rapist tells a child he or she won’t hurt them as long as they don’t tell but will hurt them if they do, is it any wonder so many kids don’t come forward within the Statute of Limitations? There have been times when rapists told the child that if she didn’t cooperate, he would harm her sister. Former baseball great Tom Paciorek explained that he didn’t report the crimes, in part, because he was afraid the same would happen to his brothers if he did. One child rape victim confessed in the documentary “Deliver Us From Evil” that she feared her dad would kill her rapist if he found out and that she didn’t want her dad to go to jail. What kind of society leaves children with only these options and dilemmas and then deny them justice as adults, once they can escape from underneath the fear of death, having their siblings raped, or having their parents imprisoned with the feeling that it would be their fault?
3. Misplaced shame and guilt often prevent rape victims from coming forward before the Statute of Limitations expires. Our society has a long way to go when it comes to attitudes toward rape. There are still too many people who blame victims of rape – for their clothing, their hair and make-up, what they drank, and how many boyfriends they’ve had. When the rapist is a celebrity or a person known and respected by the community, it is even harder on the victim to publicly accuse their perpetrator. After a young woman accused Kobe Bryant of raping her in his room at the hotel where she worked, his attorneys got away with “asking questions” in court that insinuated she was at fault, not him. Consequently, the NBA star got away with rape. In Ireland, rape victims used to be secretly sent away to ‘laundries’ while their rapists suffered no consequence. This was because it was believed the girls brought shame to the family; they were “stained” and “dishonored” and must be hidden from society as to not shame the family. Those same attitudes still exist here in the U.S. and they cause rape victims to blame themselves and carry 100% of the burden of the crimes that were committed against them. A friend of mine who was assaulted by a priest when he was young describes how he was sure he was going to hell for it. Thomas Roberts, a news anchor on MSNBC and a survivor of serial child rape, described how much shame he carried from the assaults that he promised himself to bury the secret so deeply that he would bring it to his grave. He attempted suicide at least once. These reactions are, unfortunately, not uncommon. Why would victims of sexual assault publicly accuse their perpetrator when society tells them they are the one to blame and to carry the shame?
4. The involuntary mechanisms of dissociation and minimization prevent children from reporting the rapes within the Statute of Limitations. When describing their rapes, many victims – whether an adult or child when the crime(s) occurred – speak of being suspended near the ceiling in a corner of the room, watching the assault from above. This is called dissociation The victims dissociates him- or herself from the assault and becomes a third person in the room (or fourth when there are two perpetrators at the same time). This is a natural defense – survival – mechanism that kicks in to protect the person being violated from the intense and unbearable pain and confusion they are – in reality – feeling. The only way they can survive is to have the rape be happening to someone else and, in their minds, become a witness to the heinous acts as opposed to the subject of them. Sometimes, this may develop a fractured or split personality where the victim will unknowingly create another person – name and all – who will bear the brunt of the assaults and carry the burden of the pain caused by them. Minimization is another natural mechanism in which rape victims subconsciously minimize what was done to them in order to protect themselves from having to fully acknowledge or feel the attack and the resulting pain. Sometimes, the only thing they can do to protect themselves is to believe it happened to someone else or convince themselves that it wasn’t as bad as it really was. These are involuntary, natural reactions that come into play only because the crimes are so heinous, unlike a purse snatching or simple assault. For legislators to punish rape victims by denying them justice when they are finally capable of facing the trauma that was forced upon them is cruel and pours salt into their already deep and painful wounds.
5. The combination of pain, shame, and dissociation cause many rape victims to bury the pain so deeply that they have no memory of it until well after the Statute of Limitations have expired. There are many skeptics of repressed memory. They simply cannot believe that actual crime victims can go a period of time – sometimes decades – with no memory of being raped many years prior. Those skeptics need to get out more. I have heard several survivors of childhood rape describe the moment when the memories of their assault(s) came flooding into their mind. They know exactly where they were and what they were doing at the time the vivid replaying of their attacks – like watching a video recording of it – re-surfaced after years and years of being buried so deeply that they remained undetected by their conscience. (For the record, I’ve never heard of this occurring in a therapist’s office as many ignorant skeptics charge.) One survivor recalled what it was that triggered the memory of the 3-day weekend when he was repeatedly raped in a motel room as a child. For many of the adults who buried their pain and their memory of being assaulted, having it all come back begins the painful journey of actually dealing with it and recovering from it. The resurfaced memories also explain to them a lot of why their life turned out the way it did. Why they always felt different from everyone else. Why they fell into a life of alcohol, drugs, or other self-destructive behaviors; why they were angry, distrustful, and unsuccessful in having healthy relationships. Repressed memory is not some gimmick that adults dream up because they want to make a quick buck, as some ignorant people have charged. Repressed memory is real. It is an involuntary defense mechanism brought upon some children who are victimized heinously by men and women much older, stronger, and powerful than they. Adults who finally begin to remember what happened to them as kids should not be punished for something of which they had no control.
6. Many victims of child rape are groomed to identify with their perpetrator. As master manipulators, child molesters can spend years grooming potential victims before they so much as lay a hand on them. They get the child to trust them, like them, appreciate them, and even depend on them. Many child molesters target kids they identify as being especially vulnerable or needy in one sense or another. Daniel McCormack would give his child victims gift cards to Dominick’s to the point that his ‘offerings’ were feeding the family. Child molesters often take advantage of children from low-income and/or broken families or those with special needs or low self-esteem. They gain unusual access and trust by offering things the child might wants or need. Most children aren’t sophisticated enough to understand the true intent of these seemingly charitable acts. Serial child rapist Donald McGuire used to tell his victims that they didn’t know how to love and that it was his duty, as a priest, to teach them. Getting children to become dependent on them – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – is a tool child rapists often use. When child-abduction survivor Elizabeth Smart was found alive, and when it came out that she had been out in public with her kidnappers, some wondered why she didn’t try to run away or scream for help. The same questions were asked about Patty Hearst who was older than Elizabeth when she was kidnapped. I have witnessed first-hand a victim of spousal assault fight police officers who were arresting her husband who had just beat her. Evil manipulators slowly brainwash their victims into identifying – and even protecting – them. However, it is the duty of civil authorities and legislators to recognize the perpetrator from the victim – even when the victims have difficulty doing so – and bring criminals to justice.
7. Many children did report to adults that they were being molested, only to have their pleas for help ignored. The recently-released HBO documentary perfectly demonstrates what often happened when children who were being molested told adults. This particular group of boys – all deaf – escaped the boarding school they attended and made it to the police station to report how the priest at the institution was abusing them. After waiting in a room at the station for a short time, the cops came in and told the boys to go home, essentially into the arms of their molester whose abuse would continue for years. When Bob Brancato was in grade school, he reported to a parish priest that the school principal at the parish school was sexually abusing him. Instead of calling the cops, the priest started molesting him, too. When Donald Bondick confessed to a priest that another priest had raped him repeatedly, the clergyman grabbed young Donald by the hair and dragged him out of the church. He told him never to speak like that about a priest again. Catholic priests seem to receive particular deference when it comes to crimes. When non-clerical citizens might have been brought to justice, many priests were/are given a pass by law enforcement officials. Back in the ’70’s, when a Geneva, Illinois police officer busted a Catholic priest having sex with another man in a bathroom of the city’s Wheeler Park, he brought him into the station. The chief let him go, pointing out to the officer that he was a priest. Is it the children’s fault no one believed them when they reported what was happening to them, or that they believed them but decided to give their rapist a pass? How can America claim to have a “justice system” when children who did tell before the Statute of Limitations expired – to no avail – are later told by civil authorities that it’s too late to pursue justice?
8. A consequence of bending over backward to protect defendants of child rape is to deny their victims their day in court. The reason we even have a justice system is to pursue justice and keep order in our society. How does preventing child rape victims from pursuing justice for wrongs committed against them through criminal and civil courts promote justice, peace, and social or internal harmony? Is the ultimate goal to pursue justice or to allow rapists of children to escape prosecution? When an adult survivor finally remembers being raped or finally feels empowered enough to report being raped as a child, does he or she not deserve to have his or her day in court just like every other crime victim? Does he or she not deserve to file a formal complaint with the police? Does he or she not deserve to testify or provide a deposition under oath? Does he or she not deserve to hear the click of handcuffs around his or her rapist? Does he or she not deserve to provide a victim’s impact statement before a judge and jury like every other crime victim? What about the civil rights of the child? The victim? The innocent?
9. Statutes of Limitations allow serial rapists escape justice and accountability. I would think federal, state, and local lawmakers would want serial rapists to be prosecuted and put behind bars. Apparently, the legislators who vote to keep Statute of Limitation in child-sex-crimes intact aren’t concerned about serial rapists being free to rape and rape again. What is the consequence of these outdated laws? Child rapists get away with their crimes because, by the time their victims are able to report the rapes, it’s too late. Not only are they not prosecuted, but they are never named on any sex-offender list. On several occasions, I leafleted a neighborhood near Comiskey Park where a serial child molester, Raimond Rose, lives. Because it was youngsters he assaulted, his crimes weren’t reported in time to have him arrested. As a result, he is free to molest more kids. One boy told me and my fellow-leafleters that Rose was at the high school across the street – St. Francis de la Salle – “all the time”. The women on the block were shocked that Rose’s criminal past was not known to them. The only way they found out about this dangerous man in their midst was by a group of citizens taking the time to inform residents face-to-face, with homemade flyers. Is that the best this society can do? Is it not the duty of governments to protect the citizenry? With all of the money governments take from taxpayers, one would think they could do a better job than to leave it to ordinary citizens to do their job for them. If lawmakers do not care about adult survivors of child sex crimes who weren’t fortunate enough to see any justice done for the heinous crimes committed against them as children, at least they ought to care about protecting potential victims from suffering that same fate. A vote against reforming Statute of Limitations is a vote against protecting innocent children from being sexually assaulted. It is that simple.
10. Statute of Limitations on sex crimes against children is an assault against survivors of those crimes by the government. Imagine you were raped repeatedly – for years – as a young child. Imagine feeling powerless at the time to do anything to stop the assaults. Imagine growing up with the pain of that secret buried deep inside of you. Imagine entering adulthood feeling different than all of your peers – sad, lonely, scared, unloved, worthless. Imagine being a middle-aged adult and having vivid recollections of your child self being sexually brutalized by a grown man – having to watch yourself, as a child, being raped. Then, imagine going to the police to report what you just remembered happened to you so long ago and being told that you waited too late to report it and that you would have no recourse through the justice system. What then? You go to bed each night tormented by nightmares of the past – deeds of another that can never be fully exposed, much less punished. You spend each day worrying that your rapist is assaulting another child at that very moment and how that child will have to carry the same pain throughout his or her life as you have. You try to come to terms with the fact that there is nothing – within the law – that you can do to stop the rapist or to seek justice for what he or she did to you so many times, so many years ago. He or she stole your childhood and devastated your life and there is not a thing you can do about it without breaking the law yourself. This is what many adult survivors of child sex crimes have to live with – day in and day out. All the while, their rapists are out living their lives, enjoying themselves, partying it up. One serial child rapist lives in a condo unit in the south suburbs of Chicago. His condo complex is filled with children. Yet, his victims are told to “move on”, “forgive and forget”. If it were you, would you forget?
Believe it or not, the biggest opponent to reforming Statutes of Limitation on child sex crimes is none other than the Roman Catholic Church. The Church has spent millions over the years lobbying state lawmakers to vote against such reform. The Church has at least one lobbying arm in each state, staffed by well-paid lawyers who lobby and fight in court against allowing adult survivors of child rape to pursue justice in a court of law.
Many survivors of clergy sexual assault have explained that, when they first brought their complaint to their diocese, they were met with no compassion but two important (to the Church) questions: When did it happen and where did it happen?
The reason for this is because it matters, to the Church. States have different laws on when sex crimes against children can be investigated. Some states are friendlier to child rape than others. Whether or not the rapist took the child(ren) across state lines to commit his or her crimes might also matter, depending on respective state laws.
The question of when it happened – victims are usually asked for specific dates – matters for no other reason than whether or not the Statutes of Limitations has passed; whether or not the Church can be sued, bishops deposed, or documents exposed.
Catholic bishops have bullied and intimidated lawmakers in many different states in which SOL reform was being debated. They instruct priests to use the bully pulpit on Sunday mornings. Catholic sponsors of reform legislation have been called out by name during Mass as an enemy of the church. In 2010, William Lori, as the bishop of Bridgeport in New York, bishop invited state legislators to breakfast and proceeded to threaten to close parishes in their districts and blame them for it if they supported the pending SOL reform bill.
While some lawmakers are committed to protecting children and survivors of child rape, Catholics bishops are committed to protecting the material assets of the Church.
Allowing Americans who were raped as children years ago to pursue justice in our criminal and civil court system will not undo the crimes and the deep, devastating pain they have caused. However, having even a small sense that justice has been served has the ability to soften that pain, ease that burden, and protect today’s kids in the process.
Lawmakers must make a choice when deciding how to vote on bills that aim to reform archaic Statutes of Limitations of sex crimes against children. Either they can vote for criminal justice and the safety of children or for civil injustice and the protection of rapists and their enablers. Given that choice, I’m not sure why there is any debate.