Petitioning President of the Senate Senator Therese Murray and 3 others

Remove the Time Barriors on Justice for Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse.

Give survivors a chance at justice and a voice in our judicial system. Let these horrific cases be continent on evidence not on time.  

Letter to
President of the Senate Senator Therese Murray
Speaker of the House Representative Robert DeLeo
Chair, Joint Committee on the Judiciary Senator Katherine Clark
and 1 other
Chair, Joint Committee on the Judiciary Representative Eugene L. O'Flaherty (Chair, Joint Committee on the Judiciary)
Original Letter written and sent to all MA Legislators 2/2013.

Dear Massachusetts Legislators,

I am writing to share my story and urge you to repeal the current Statute of Limitations for child sexual abuse. It is the personal stories that give light to the law and I would like to use mine to this end.

I am 39 years old and live with my two children in Longmeadow Ma. I was sexually abused by my stepfather Peter R. Cooney, beginning around the age of eight and ending around the age of 14. I was vaginally raped, sodomized, taught to perform oral sex and I was fed and smeared with his feces. I developed Dissociative Identity Disorder, a coping mechanism in which my mind found a way to distance a self from trauma.

In the “grooming” phase my stepfather bought me two dogs, later he used these dogs to keep me quiet. Last year I got in touch with a childhood friend. I had not been in contact with her for approximately 30 years. She told me that soon before we moved out of their neighborhood, I was then 10, I came to her driveway and shared that if I told what my step father was doing to me he would poison and kill my 2 dogs. I told her that he said he could do it and not get caught. Two years later these dogs were gone. My mother told me they went to a farm. Later in life my mother would ask me about them, she would say: “He got you those dogs, you loved those dogs, but then you wouldn’t go near them anymore- what happened to those dogs?” I now know much more of the story.

After the dogs my stepfather threatened the safety of my mother and I. As a child and victim it was made my responsibility to keep my mother safe and our “family” together. This is why when my mom died on Dec 26, 2010 I cracked open. I gained memories of the “other girls” that had accompanied me in life, holding my pain and separating me from the sexual relationship that existed between me and my stepfather. I gained memories of the abuse itself. The PTSD symptoms that I had struggled with as an adult I finally understood. I also remembered trying to tell my mother when I was 18 that I had been sexually assaulted in a particular bedroom. I reminder her of other mothers on that street coming to talk with her about me and I told her my pediatrician had noticed something about my vagina back then but I had lied to him about it. My mother could not hear me that day and I did not know who my abuser was. This is what my mind had done, it fractured it all out to protect me. Two years later, one summer day on the Cape, my mother specifically asked if Peter had molested me. I hardly let her get the words out, yelling “NO!” She followed with: “What did he do to you then? Why are you so strange around him?” I answered that I did not know. I don’t think that I did know then, but I do now, and this knowledge will help me walk to freedom. Although it is an important part of how children survive trauma we are in the end prisoners of the memories we repress.

Our current laws with regard to child sexual abuse prevent me from seeking justice through our legal system. Although I did not understand that I had been sexually abused by my stepfather until March of 2011, this is difficult to prove. The three year discovery rule, as it is currently worded, prevents justice time and again. I somehow made it to here. I am somehow whole and strong enough to want to stand up for the little girl I was. I have lived inside a bubble built by trauma and I want out. I want all survivors to know that we are rooting for them, that we will stand with them whenever they are ready to take back their lives. Survivors deserve a chance at a day in court. Lack of evidence may prevent justice, but time restrictions should not.

I live in this town with my abuser. I see him drive by my house. My friends see the man who fed me his feces shopping at the grocery store. I want to take him to court.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. This April is the 30th anniversary of that designation. Let’s send a giant message to victims and abusers alike. We need to show where our priorities are in these horrific crimes. Let’s help keep children safe and their abusers identified and behind bars. This April, let’s finally repeal the Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse in Massachusetts.

Thank you.

Yours truly,
Lisa Foster
Longmeadow, Ma.

Sheila Gallagher Roberts (the childhood friend mentioned in the letter)
Chicopee, Ma