Child sexual abuse is widespread and silent epidemic. For decades, the states organized their legal systems in a way that almost always favored the perpetrators by keeping the survivor out of court. When a survivor was finally ready and tapped on the courthouse door, there was no answer, so the survivor quietly retreated. Forgetting survivors’ claims before a jury – actions filed by the few brave souls who came forward were usually blocked from the very start by the statutes of limitations. It’s time for Massachusetts to pass this important legislation that provides justices for each and every victim of child sexual abuse.
The societal issues validating the passing of Bill H.469 include:
1. Public Safety Issue: 77-85% of child sexual abuse goes unreported to the authorities, further perpetuating the issue and empowering sexual abusers to continue perpetrating on children. Eliminating all statutes of limitations will reduce the number of sexual offenders at large in Massachusetts. Eliminating all statutes of limitations on sexual crimes against children is a simple but powerful legislative reform. It opens the courthouse doors and lets victims expose perpetrators through peaceful, legal means.
• Financial Cost: The annual cost of the impact of child sexual abuse is between $124 billion and $585 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The lifetime cost of each case – the CDC’s low-end estimate is $210,012 extra over a lifetime, including about $32,600 in childhood health-care costs and $10,500 in adult expenses. Those costs outstrip the lifetime cost of diabetes or stroke cases.
• Public Health Issue: The suicide attempt rate is more than twice as likely among both men and women who experienced child sexual abuse. It was found that the magnitude of the increased risk of alcohol problems, illicit drug use, suicide attempts, marrying an alcoholic, and current marital and family problems associated with CSA. The long-term impact of CSA on multiple health and social problems was similar for both men and women. These findings strongly indicate that boys and girls are vulnerable to this form of childhood maltreatment; the similarity in the likelihood for multiple behavioral, mental, and social outcomes among men and women suggests the need to identify and treat all adults affected by CSA.
• Survivorship: Childhood sexual abuse survivors do not understand the harm that was done to them or the extent of that harm. They do not come forward, let alone go to court for decades.
• What is Right for Children and Victims: We all know what the right thing to do is … do everything we can so children are not sexually abused and encounter immediate trauma, which has a lifetime of physical, psychological and emotional implications.
Reasons to Eliminate the Statute of Limitations
There are four reasons to eliminate the Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse in Massachusetts, which add up to one overarching policy - the safety of children is more important than the comfort of child abusers:
1. Accommodating the needs of childhood sexual abuse survivors by crafting a system that makes them the priority instead of their predators.
2. Identifying the child predators in our midst.
3. Finding more survivors of the same perpetrator once a single survivor has come forward.
4. Deterring institutions from hiding child sexual abuse.