I recently responded to questions held by many legislators in North Dakota when they were considering Statute of Limitation (SOL) reform. Legislators questions are in bold. My comments are highlighted in italic.
Giving a two-year window for civil lawsuits will overwhelm the court with frivolous lawsuits.
Justice, accountability, and the rule of law should be the principal concern of any legal proceeding. Over 30 states have reformed their Statute of Limitation (SOL) laws in the last couple of years. See. CHILDUSA.org/SOL There have been no reported cases of the justice system overwhelmed. None. Please note, the vast majority of civil cases are settled out of court, maybe 90% or more. There is no burden placed on the state justice system.
It is insulting to assume victims coming forward with the most grievous injury are coming forward for frivolous reasons.
The preponderance of evidence is so low in civil cases that many “innocent” people will be dragged into court.
Thank heavens we have a jury system of assessment by peers. Every case goes before a jury. I do not doubt the jury system; I ask that legislators do not doubt the jury system. We have a system of judges and juries. Let us not provide avoidance from accountability based upon a ‘fear’ of misuse. The process is not a one way street for victims. According to federal statistics, the rate of false accusations is limited to 2%.
http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/data.htm, see point #9 below
Victims “should have known” that they could have filed a lawsuit years ago. Why now?
When I was violently raped at age twelve by my parish priest, it caused lifelong harm. The effects of PTSD remain to this day sixty years later. I remember some of my abuse after thirty years. Memories of the life-threatening rape remained buried for fifty years. Memories surfaced when my twin daughters turned twelve, which evoked memories of the violence and rape I suffered when I turned twelve.
CHILDUSA.org/SOL research shows the average age of a victim of child sex abuse is 52.
Other causes for the delay in reporting:
- Many suffer from the unwanted feelings of guilt and shame that is placed on them. Victim shaming is, sadly, a cultural blot on our society.
- Tied to shaming is self-blaming where the victim laments actions; could I have done more to fight back? Related, humiliation.
- Some worry that others would take action; for example, a child victim might not report because they believe the father would kill the perpetrator—more than one victim has mentioned this fear.
- A fear that no one will believe them. Predators groom the victim and groom those around the victim. So many predators cultivate charm and good nature. A victim may fear that they will not be believed. Or believe it was their fault.
- The predator may be a family member that the victim does not want to be ostracized by the family.
- Their job or professional standing will be harmed if they step forward.
- Tragically rape and sexual assault are a direct attack on self-worth so that a victim may be so beat down and depressed that reporting is not seen as an option.
- The psychological effects may be so dramatic that the victim’s harm is pushed aside, disassociated.
Bringing a civil lawsuit forward at a later stage of life actually hurts the victim that they will have to re-live the horrors. SOLs help them.
Yes. It is incredibly difficult for a victim to come forward to name the crime and the criminal. Yes, it can be emotionally challenging. That is why, as mentioned previously, most cases are settled previous to jury trials.
While holding a predator and an institution accountable for their crimes can be difficult, we must weigh that challenge to the benefit that a successful case may bring support to needed therapy. Also, speaking up, fighting back is an integral part of healing. A victim can move forward to a survivor who begins to determine his or her future.
Filing a lawsuit is voluntary. The victim decides the challenges versus the benefits. Legislators should not take this choice away. And legislators should give opportunity for all victims to achieve justice.
Current SOLs (criminal and civil) should not be changed because cases will drag on. What kinds of evidence could be relevant after three years, etc.?
Once again, any lawsuit goes in front of a jury. Testimony is taken under oath of all parties. Subpoenas can be issued; records can be discovered. Previous correspondence, letters, photos, news articles, receipts are all evidence. All evidence is relevant! All have equal opportunity to present evidence.
Repetition, very few cases ever go to trial. Very few. Check with the Attorney Generals of other states.
The harm is lifelong. The raping and sexual violence are equivalent to murder. (The lifelong damage has had crippling effects for me for sixty years.) There should be NO SOL on child sexual violence, either criminal or civil.
Note Economic harm of $830k:
This is a slippery slope. Too much of he said, she said. SOLs are there for judges.
Please note, the essential element is justice and accountability. There is an equal opportunity for a jury to assess the validity of any testimony and evidence. I trust the jury system, and I ask that legislators put similar trust in this system.
You point to the very reason we have testimony UNDER OATH. And we have the power of subpoena.
Too big a leap for me as I believe we ought to do more in prevention. Prison makes people worse.
If a violent predator rapes a child, why should we worry about it making them worse? What is worse?
Sexual predators will continue to sexually abuse until they are stopped.
Sexual violence and rape of children is equivalent to murder.
Yes, we should work on prevention. If you don’t hold rapists and child molesters accountable, they will continue to rape and abuse for decades.
I was raped and sexually abused by a priest, Fr. Murphy, in Sioux City, Iowa, when I was twelve. The abuse continued for several months; the abuse stopped due to Murphy getting caught abusing another child. Murphy had been caught molesting children and transferred by the bishop three times before coming to my parish and elementary school.
January 20, 2021