Monday, March 23, 2009

Parents Are You Familiar With The Child Victims Act?

SAN DIEGO - MARCH 1: Alleged sexual abuse vici...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
I came across this great article by Marci Hamilton a Cardozo Law Professor, columnist of and author of "Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children", which explains the Child Victims Act and what it will do to protect children from sexual predators.
As a Catholic, I'm disappointed to find that the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, along with the NY Civil Libierties Union (NYCLU), an organization like the ACLU, are opposed to this law which would expose child predators so that they are unable to prey upon our children again. What is different about this bill in relation to the current National Sex Offender Public Registry, which requires offenders to register in each state? The Child Victims Act will allow victims to report abuse and identify offenders five years beyond the current state statute of limitations laws and allows victims up to one year to file a court lawsuit in civil or criminal court, if the statute of limitations has expired.
Here are portions of that article, with highlights of the issue:
(On) March 18, the New York Assembly Rules Committee passed the Child Victims Act (Assembly Bill A02596/Senate Bill S02568), which will extend the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse by five years. It will also open a one-year window of opportunity for child sex abuse victims to go to court even if their statute of limitations already had expired. The next stop is the full Assembly and then on to the Senate.
The Child Victims Act was first introduced by Assemblywoman Marge Markey, who has doggedly stood by the bill. For three years, she shepherded it through the Assembly, only to be blocked by Sen. Joseph Bruno, now under federal indictment. Now that Democrats are a majority in the Senate and many support this bill, there is real hope that victims have a shot at justice in New York this time around.

Survivors for Justice, comprised of Orthodox victims and their supporters; and Orthodox rabbis have joined them on the sidelines. While a handful of rabbis joined the Catholic Conference to lobby members last week, the powerful Orthodox Union has issued a public statement that it will not be opposing the Child Victims Act. This is the largest Orthodox Jewish group in the country and a highly respected one. In a statement, the Orthodox Union said that it "generally supports the expansion of the statute of limitations to enable victims of sexual abuse to pursue legal claims" and is "not opposed to this legislation." In addition, according to a news story by Hella Winston for The Jewish Week, Uri L'Tzedek, another Orthodox Jewish organization, organized outreach to legislators as did the Committee for Safeguarding Orthodox Children and Am Echad. In addition, a new student group at Cardozo -- Cardozo Advocates for Kids -- has set up a website that will monitor statute of limitations developments nationally,; held a conference on abuse in religious communities; and organized a student phone-a-thon in favor of the bill.

Meanwhile, Survivors for Justice has combined with Voice of the Faithful and New York SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) to organize support for the bill. The groups individually and together have been to Albany, sent postcards to every member of New York's Assembly, and worked tirelessly to get the bill passed. These are survivors (and their families and friends) with their own issues and jobs and families, who have chosen to make this their single priority.

The Catholic League and the Catholic Conference (the lobbyists for the bishops in each state) have pushed two primary arguments: (1) They say the bill is not fair because it does not treat public and private entities precisely the same (and we are supposed to draw from this that it is "targeted" at the Catholic Church); and (2) they say that it will bankrupt New York dioceses. The first is mere obfuscation, and the second is intentionally misleading.

The bill pending in the Assembly will extend the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse by five years. It will also open a one-year window of opportunity for child sex abuse victims to go to court even if their statute of limitations already had expired.

The NYCLU, like the ACLU, is an institution that makes the world a worse place for children. The NYCLU and ACLU rarely, if ever, take the position of the child, unless the issue is free speech in public schools. Whether the issue is the medical neglect of children in faith-healing homes, or the abuse of children in polygamous families, or the failure to educate children in Amish or Mennonite communities, they choose the religious parents to the detriment of the helpless children. It is a record that all those in the emerging civil rights movement for children have come to know well, and to be deeply disappointed by. The truth is that the NYCLU and ACLU seem incapable of factoring the rights of children into the mix. The ACLU might as well be called the Adult Civil Liberties Union. These organizations' knee-jerk reaction to the Child Victims Act is not only dangerous to children and families, but also based on outdated, inaccurate information about the reality of childhood sexual abuse.

The NYCLU are taking the side of the perpetrators, making the patently ridiculous argument that it is not "fair" for those who preyed on children to be named decades after their abuse occurred, because memories are faulty.

What are your thoughts? Should victims of abuse be able to identify their perpetrators five years after the incident in civil and criminal court despite the state statute of limitations? Or do you think 'victims' will be more likely to report false claims based on "faulty memory"? What I wonder is why the Child Victims Act is not something that has already been passed nationally? Help get the Child Victims Act passed in your state by clicking here.
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