PRESS RELEASE // Statute of Limitations (SOL) Reform Before Year-End Deadline
December 13, 2012 -- 12 AM EST
MassKids, 14 Beacon Street, Suite 706, Boston
Contact: Jetta Bernier, Executive Director
Infant/toddler Sex Abuse Case Prompts Advocates to Press for Statute of Limitations (SOL) Reform Before Year-End Deadline
Push for Expansion of Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Campaign
December 13, 2012, BOSTON, MA – Child advocates today urged legislators to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill that would reform the state’s current Statute of Limitations in cases of child sexual abuse. “The public’s response to the sexual abuse of 13 infants and toddlers by Level 1 sex offender John Burbine has been very strong” said Jetta Bernier, director of MassKids, a statewide non-profit child abuse prevention group. “People are upset and want solutions to prevent these heinous crimes from happening. One way the public can channel this outrage is to insist that the legislature move the SOL reform bill through to passage before year’s end,” she said. “Failure to do so would maintain the loophole for those sexual abusers who have never been brought to justice. Currently, these individuals are free to abuse with impunity since under the current Statues of Limitations, they are beyond the law’s reach.”
Advocates support an SOL bill that would extend the time a victim could file civil charges against their alleged abuser from the victim’s 21st birthday to age 43. Importantly, it would create a “window” - a one or two year period of time - during which victims who under current law are barred from filing charges would be able to do so and expose the facts of their cases in court.
Because final negotiations on the bill were not resolved before the July 31st end of the formal legislative session, a Conference Committee was appointed on October 22nd to finalize the language with the goal of passing a final bill in the “informal” session. Advocates have been told that the Committee is “making progress”, however, the closed-door discussions have not yielded visible results and there are only a few short weeks left for passage during this legislative session. Failure to pass the bill before then would mean refilling the bill and starting all over – something that supporters of reform are intent on avoiding.
Rosanne Sliney, a former Waltham teacher and survivor of child sexual abuse from age 5 to 14 by her godfather summed it up: “A strong case for holding abusers accountable and preventing the sexual abuse of more children has been made again and again during the two-year legislative session that will soon end. The public and an overwhelming majority of legislators support SOL reform. Concerns about constitutional issues have been fully addressed by the nation’s leading legal experts. Countdown to the New Year begins today with 19 days remaining. We urge the Conference Committee to complete its work and get the bill approved now before survivors have to face the run-down of yet another time clock,” she said.
Advocates urge parents to channel their outrage by getting educated about specific strategies to prevent child sexual abuse from happening in the first place. The Enough Abuse Campaign, a nationally recognized Massachusetts-based prevention initiative, has been working to do that and more since its formation just after the clergy sex abuse scandal was uncovered in 2002. Several communities have joined the Campaign and formed local coalitions of organizations committed to ending the problem. Campaign sites include: the 8-town North Quabbin region, Hampshire and Franklin Counties, North Shore, Greater Lowell, Greater Springfield, Newton/Waltham, South Worcester County, and Cape Cod and Islands. Thousands of parents, youth and a range of professionals across the state have been educated about sexual abuse prevention through community workshops provided free by local volunteers trained by the Campaign. Free booklets for parents about how to prevent child sexual abuse are also available by contacting the Campaign at email@example.com
A 2007 UMass Poll found that nearly two-thirds of citizens say they would participate in local trainings to learn about sexual abuse and how to prevent it – an increase from 47% in a similar poll conducted four years earlier. When asked where the state should spend its resources to solve this problem, 37% said that educating adults should be the top priority. That was followed by 35% wanting better police and child protective services investigations. Only 20% believed that promoting the Sex Offender Registry was a priority, and significantly fewer (7%) believed that funds should be spent on treating adult sexual abusers.
“The lesson we all need to take away from the clergy sex abuse scandal, the Penn State cover-up, the Boy Scouts’ “perversion files” case, and the stream of sexual abuse disclosures that have become so routine, is that adults and communities must take prime responsibility for preventing sexual abuse from ever happening,” said Bernier. “That means learning and talking about it. That’s where the Enough Abuse Campaign comes in.” The Campaign’s goal is that by 2015, every Massachusetts city and town will be actively engaged in preventing child sexual abuse in their homes and communities. “Every day we are working to reach that goal,” said Bernier whose organization staffs the effort. “We urge citizens who want to help launch a prevention effort in their community to contact the Campaign and become part of the solution.”
MassKids (Massachusetts Citizens for Children) is a 53-year-old independent, private child advocacy organization working since 1959 to improve the lives of Massachusetts’s most vulnerable children. It serves as the Massachusetts Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America and is lead agency for the Enough Abuse Campaign to prevent child sexual abuse. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called the Campaign “a trailblazing effort.” The Campaign has been adopted in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and California.
For more information: MassKids, 14 Beacon Street, Suite 706, Boston, MA 02108 or call 617-742-8555 ext. 2 or visit www.masskids.org. For more information about the Enough Abuse Campaign visit www.enoughabuse.org