5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW REGARDING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE THIS WEEK.
Los Angeles (The Karney Report)— CHILD RAPISTS AND CHILD SEX ABUSERS GET OFF SCOTT FREE BECAUSE OF ARBITRARY AND UNFAIR PROCEDURAL DEADLINES (SOL) IMPOSED ON THEIR VICTIMS.
Here are the stories that broke this week-for survivors—for all of us—for those who love and support survivors.
Child Sexual Abuse-The state of the law for victims of child sex abuse across the United States today is a crumbling legal infrastructure that needs a major comprehensive overhaul.
- THE LAW FOR CHILD SEX ABUSE SURVIVORS
The state of the law for victims of child sex abuse across the United States today is a crumbling legal infrastructure that needs a major comprehensive overhaul. If you believe that keeping immigrant children in cages at the border is immoral and unconscionable, then you should agree that allowing perpetrators to assault, abuse, rape sexually, and prey on children within our borders, is obscene and morally reprehensible as well. Allowing our children to be sexually abused in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in school, in camp, in sports, in education, in prayer, in Boy Scouts, at universities, in foster care without legal consequence or fair laws in place is equally unconscionable. Moreover, if you believe that, then we must act. We must all act. Because while torturing immigrant children at the border is immoral, so is sexually abusing children within our borders.
Even more indecent than allowing child sex abuse, is preventing those same children from having an opportunity to pursue justice against those that have harmed them by using arbitrary procedural trickery in every state across the United States except Guam. Yes, Guam is the only territory that has eliminated arbitrary procedural deadlines for a victim of child sex abuse to sue their abusers and the institutions that are responsible as well.
Without sounding like a law nerd, the state of the law across the US for victims of child sexual abuse is in shambles. It’s time for a reboot. There’s been lots of barking in many states over the years but still little bite. Predators, perpetrators, and pedophiles know it. In fact, they count on it. Like any prey animal, their feral instincts are honed and sharp.
Young children, under the age of 6, are the favorite target because they are the most innocent. They are also the least likely to be believed because of their youth and innocence, often unable to articulate what happened to them. Even a lousy lawyer can tear a child apart on the witness stand. Children lack the mental and emotional maturity to realize that sex from an adult or older child is not normal. Moreover, as in my case, it’s a family member or cherished adult, and so baby child victims repress all memory of the traumatic abuse until the statute of limitations is long gone.
The stage is primed for the perfect crime. The law is the enabler, and so, by our silence and inaction are we. Do we want to give sexual predators the upper hand and our blessing? Well, like it or not, the state of the law across the US does just that. If you have children, if you love a child, if you were a child victim, if you are a survivor of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, you must read this.
- Number of Victims of Child Sexual Abuse
There are millions of us:
* 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday, (with the majority of child victims under the age of 6)*
* An American is sexually assaulted every 92 seconds. And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 5 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison. (And these are cases where child protective services find evidence or there is substantiation for a claim of child sexual abuse.)
*2 out of 3 sexual assaults go unreported to the police or authorities.
*Millions of child sex abuse victims in the United States today have not even disclosed the abuse to the public or told anyone and suffer in silence.
KEY PROBLEM: THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS (“SOL”) –– AN ARBITRARY PROCEDURAL DEADLINE FOR FILING CHILD SEX ABUSE CLAIMS
Statute of Limitations for sex abuse victims is an arbitrary procedural deadline that most victims can’t meet in time to file their claim.
Research shows an important study that most of the victims of child sex abuse missed the deadlines because of the disclosure delay that is common among child sex abuse victims. Only 25-33% of victims disclose in childhood, and the same number never do, so 33-50% disclose in adulthood, with age 48 as the median, and age 52 as the average. The reasons for delay are specific to each individual, but often involve disabilities that result from the trauma (e.g., depression, sexual problems, suicide, PTSD, substance abuse, and alcoholism).
The statutes of limitations (both civil and criminal) across the United States are far too short and fail to protect innocent, helpless victims of child sex abuse. The state legislatures and the United States Congress failed to act. They fail to take into account the unique nature, shame, silence, confusion, of child sex abuse and end up protecting perpetrators while silencing their victims, and denying justice for all survivors.
So, while those in power dawdle and ignore the horror in plain sight, the perpetrators are permitted freedom to abuse, countless children.
Criminal Statute of Limitations:
The plaintiff is the State, the defendant, is the perpetrator. If found guilty by a judge or jury, the perpetrator can be sentenced to jail, be fined, ordered into community service, be required to register as a sex offender or a combination of different punishments. The only way a victim can receive any financial compensation for their injuries and damages is through a state victim’s assistance programs if legislated at all by the state. Also, again, all 50 states have different attitudes towards victim assistance programs. Some states have none, other states; the assistance is so dismal, that it amounts to none. Some states require victims to jump through too many legal hoops, forms, and documentation that an already traumatized victim is traumatized again by the system.
Civil Statute of Limitations:
Is the time period by which a victim of sexual abuse can file a lawsuit against the accused or perpetrators for money damages, pain and suffering, and compensation for the sexual abuse. The victim is the plaintiff. The defendant is the individual defendant. Victims ability to sue third parties or institutions that have deeper pockets are unfairly limited by state law. Given the powerful lobbying and deep financial pockets of churches, religious institutions, schools, corporations, and other third parties, few state legislatures (and those institutions and third parties that have ensured their elections) have provided for victims to have time to sue responsible institutions and adequately
ChildUSA’s comprehensive study which focused on the pace of child sex abuse SOL reform in the federal government, the 50 states, and the District of Columbia since January 2002. The study ranked the states. Each state was assigned a score for its current civil SOL, current criminal SOL, and a combined score.
ALL 50 STATES HAVE PROCEDURAL DEADLINES FOR STOPPING VICTIM SOF SEXUAL ABUSE FROM HAVING THEIR DAY IN COURT
All 50 states have their procedural deadlines for stopping victims of sexual abuse from having their day in court. It’s downright buggery and a crime against humanity. All 50 states have a different civil, and criminal statute of limitations, 50 different triggers and age requirements, 50 different ages of consent and age of majority laws, 50 different procedural deadlines and often the statutes are so long and difficult to decipher, that some of the codes and statutes combined are over 50 pages. It’s unfair to victims of sexual violence and offers the gift to perpetrators that keeps on giving.
Highlights Statute of Limitations Across the United States Today!
With all of the activity in the states since 2002, no state has reached the pinnacle of SOL reform, which is to eliminate the civil, and criminal SOLs backward and forwards.
Only Guam has done that. Thus, in 2016 Guam became the first and only jurisdiction to dispense with the child sex abuse SOLs altogether.
A few key states’ SOL analysis:
BEST STATE FOR VICTIMS –– CIVIL AND CRIMINAL SOL: Delaware
In Delaware, there is no SOL for criminal or civil claims going forward, and there was a window in place 2007-2009 during which civil suits could be brought whether or not the civil SOL had expired previously. On a scale of 1-10, overall it is a 10.
The Best States for Civil SOLs: Minnesota and Delaware.
The Worst States for Civil SOL: Alabama, Mississippi, and New York.
Moreover, the “worst are in a class by themselves as they have set an age cap on civil claims that are so short as to guarantee that 2/3 of the victims will be denied justice.” The rigidity of their formula combined with the reality of delayed disclosure means that child abusers have the upper hand. Their short deadlines for filing claims incentivize pedophiles to pursue more children.
Worst States for Civil SOL Reform for Child Sexual Abuse
Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, and Ohio.
Among the worst states, Iowa and Montana have made no changes since 2002, and the changes made by Louisiana, North Dakota, and Ohio are well behind the rest of the country. For states like Iowa and Montana, standing still amid this active movement means that the state is increasingly out of step with the rest of the country.
Best States for Criminal SOL: Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming. In each of these states, there is no criminal SOL for child sex abuse crimes, whether felonies or misdemeanors.
Worst States for Criminal SOL: Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota, each of which forces victims to press charges before age 30 (unless there is DNA evidence).
Note: Alabama is the only state to be one of the best states in one category (criminal) while being one of the worst in the other (civil).
RE-CAP OF A FEW STATES
Arizona is one of the worst states for access to justice for child sex abuse victims in the country. The criminal SOL is capped at age 25, seven years after the age of majority (18) unless the perpetrator has left the state or is unknown. Civil claims expire at age 20, well under the median age of 48 for victims to come forward. It has not been responsive to the improving atmosphere for SOLs since 2002.
New Mexico has made no changes in the length of its child sex abuse SOLs since 1997. No criminal SOL for felonies places it in the mainstream of states. The civil SOL is relatively short at age 24 or 3 years after disclosure to a health care professional. It has been in place since 1995.
Criminal. New Mexico has made no changes to its criminal SOLs since 1997. There is no criminal SOL for first-degree felonies. The SOL for all other crimes is between 3 to 6 years depending on the nature of the offense.
Although California has been a leader in child sex abuse SOL innovation since 1991, the civil SOL is modest. In 1991, California passed the first significant legislation extending the SOL for child sex abuse from 1 year past the age of majority (21) to victims have until their 26th birthday or 3-years from the date of discovery of their damages to file civil claims. (I was fortunate enough to be able to work with Senator Bill Lockyer who sponsored the bill, introduced our draft and got it passed.
Karney also worked with an Assemblywoman Paula Boland (CA) to get a law passed in California that would revive expired criminal SOLs, but it was held unconstitutional in Stogner v. California. In 2003, in direct response to the revelations about the Boston Archdiocese, California enacted a 1-year window, which revived civil claims during the 2003 calendar year.
It has not amended the civil SOL otherwise, which is age 26 or discovery plus 3 years, whichever is later.
The civil SOL in California is modest: victims have to age 26 or a 3-year discovery rule to file civil claims. On a scale of 1-10, overall it ranks as a 7. The high ranking of a 7 is due to the enactment of legislation by Senator Connie Leyva, eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for rape, sexual assault, and continuous child sex abuse. However, victims, as of September 2016, must still be within the 10-year criminal statute of limitations at the time of the passage of the law to have their SOL extended under the new legislation.
Since 2002 New York has eliminated some felonies from the criminal SOL.
In all other respects, it is one of the worst states for access to justice for child sex abuse victims in the country. The SOL for all other crimes is age 23; the civil SOL against the perpetrator is only age 23, but the civil SOLs against employers are even shorter. Claims for negligence top out at age 21 and claims for vicarious liability expire age 19. On a scale of 1-10, overall it is a 5 (where 4 is the lowest combined score).
Criminal. In 2006, New York eliminated the criminal SOL for some felonies. The SOL for all other felonies is age 23 (age of majority, 18, plus 5 years) and age 20 for all other misdemeanors (age of majority, 18, plus 2 years).
Civil. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has listed among his top priorities for 2019 the passage of the Child Victims Act that would widen the timetable for child sex abuse victims to press charges, a bill that has been kicked around in Albany for over a decade.
Two states as of the writing of this blog, have introduced legislation to eliminate the SOL both civilly and criminally for child sex abuse, Maryland and Pennsylvania. We will see what happens. Hopefully, this bark will have teeth.
The Federal Government
The federal government has followed the general trend in favor of the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations for crimes related to child sex abuse. As of January 2002, the federal criminal SOL was age 25. In 2006 the child sex abuse SOLs were eliminated for all sex crimes against children. However, there is still restrictive SOL for victims of sexual harassment, campus sexual assault, and other forms of sexual violence.
Masha’s Law is the federal statute creating civil liability to compensate child pornography victims, a subset of the child sex abuse universe. It was originally passed in 2006 with an SOL of age 21 (the age of majority + 3). In 2005, statutory damages of $150,000.00 were added for each violation, and then in 2018, as part of the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act, the SOL was further extended to a discovery rule wherein a victim has 10 years from the date on which the victim understands that the pornography caused her injuries.
Different federal laws that can create civil liability for child sex abuse include the civil rights statutes as applied to public schools, wherein the SOL is typically borrowed from the state SOL where the abuse occurred. (So for a federal claim you end up with the same SOL problems as with state claims). And as mentioned above, only one state, Delaware has reformed SOL even close to what should be nationwide.
The Civil Rights Act for Victims of Sexual Violence “CRAVSV” that Roar as One is proposing to the United States Congress would give victims of child sex abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct uniform civil rights and remedies across the United States. The proposed legislation would eliminate both criminal and civil statutes of limitations, uniformly include third party and organizational liability, eliminate NDA’s for sex crimes, mandate judicial and courtroom training for staff, and include other necessary uniform laws to fix the sexual assault crisis in the United States.
As a victim of child sex abuse, it’s unfair to treat victims of child sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and campus sexual assault differently, depending on the state where the victim was abused. Victims of sexual violence are entitled to equal protection under the law and uniform civil rights.
Child sex abuse SOL reform has been very active across the United States since January 2002 when the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team first disclosed institution-based sex abuse in a trusted institution, the Boston Archdiocese. The movement has been mobilized by the #MeToo movement and survivors speaking up who were previously invisible to the public.
There are at least 80-100 million survivors of sexual violence in the United States and most even today has not disclosed the abuse publicly. Further, there has been little or no progress in protecting victims of sexual harassment, campus sexual assault, and victims of sexual violence. While the opposition to victims’ greater access to justice remains strong from certain corners, much could be done to remedy the injustice to survivors, and to hold perpetrators, predators, and pedophiles accountable.
Conclusion: If you don’t think the United States Congress should act to create one law, one nation under God for our children and the victims of sexual violence, then maybe you want to volunteer your child or loved one, as red meat to child predators because the rest of us, survivors, parent, and conscientious loving people, don’t want our children to be victims any longer.
It is time for action. Sexual Violence is a national human rights emergency in the United States
*Special hanks to Professor Marci Hamilton at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law for her excellent research for the cited study.
Where do We go From Here? JUSTICE FOR ALL SURVIVORS
Together we must act to end the “scourge on humanity” of sexual assault. Please help us sponsor legislation that creates a civil right for survivors to be free of sexual violence.
Call to action:With stories coming out daily coupled with victims left in the wake of the national disaster of sexual assault, we ASK that Presidential candidates like Senators Harris, Warren, Booker, Klobuchar, Sanders, Gillibrand, Governor Islee, Mayors Castro and Buittigieg take up the mantle of sexual violence as a cornerstone of their national campaign. Sexual violence deserves to have the same national platform, cultural transformation and legislative attention that Global warming, health care, and a living wage for all.
The issue of sexual abuse is too important to remain silent. Millions of Americans are denied their humanity by sexual violence.
It’s a bipartisan issue. It’s a human rights issue––The civil right to be free of sexual assault and violence.
Sexual violence and assault doesn’t discriminate based on political party, race, sexual orientation, or whether you are from the Coast, Rust Belt, Heartland, or the South.
My prayer and life’s mission is that some good will come out of it.
From pain to purpose.
Shari Karney, Attorney and Founder of ROAR as ONE, a non-profit organization focusing on the rights of action for survivors of all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment.
“From pain to purpose. Being sexually abused at such an early age was the scar on my soul. But I feel like it ultimately made me into the person I am today. I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I went through to be here. But now it’s time to take action to save the next generation of women and children from what we went through. Shari Karney, Esq. Author of an upcoming memoir, “Despite It All—A Story of Pain to Purpose.”
Please support survivors and Roar as One (www.roaras1.org). Our mission is pursuing justice for survivors of sexual assault and violence.
We need to come together, speak up, stand up, rise now. ACT AS ONE. ROAR AS ONE.
We must recognize and enact laws that protect the basic human right to be free of sexual assault and sexual violence. Enact nationwide Federal Civil Rights Legislation for victims of sexual abuse, rape, child sexual abuse. Join our Civil Rights Movement to get legal rights and recognition of sexual violence as a violation of human civil rights. Help us remove the Statute of Limitations nationwide for sexual assault, sexual abuse, and continuous child sexual abuse, in both civil and criminal courts. Allow survivors and sexual violence victims to file in Federal court.
©Legal Education Unlimited, Inc. (This is a publication of Legal Education Unlimited, Inc.)