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Editorial: Now will they listen?

Editorial: Now will they listen?

Pennsylvania report on priest sex abuse highlights need for Child Victims Act in New York
Editorial: Now will they listen?
Photographer: Shutterstock

After a 7-year-old boy was sexually abused by a priest, the boy was told to go to confession and confess his sins — to the very same priest.

One priest raped a 7-year-old girl who was in the hospital having her tonsils removed.

One boy became so addicted to medication due to injuries from a priest’s abuse that he later died of an overdose.

One boy was forced to pose naked as Christ on the cross while priests took photos of him. The boy was given a gold cross necklace as a reward.

These are just a handful of the chilling stories contained in a 1,356-page grand jury report out of Pennsylvania earlier this week that documented at least 1,000 children being abused by more than 300 priests over seven decades.

Yet, according to the report, few of these cases will ever be prosecuted, in part because of unnecessarily brief statutes of limitations on when victims can bring criminal and civil cases against their abusers.

When is enough ever going to be enough? When are we finally going to shift the balance of power from the abusers and their protectors to the victims where it belongs?

In light of the report, Pennsylvania lawmakers are once again revisiting stalled legislation to expand that state’s statute of limitations on sex crimes.

Similar legislation has been languishing in the New York State Legislature for years, blocked in the Senate, in part, due to the powerful lobbying efforts of organizations like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts.

Under existing law, there’s a five-year statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges in certain sex-related felony crimes involving minors. The clock on that starts when the victim turns 18.

The new law, called the Child Victims Act, would keep the same five-year statute of limitations, but would start the clock when the victim turns 23 years old. That means victims could be 28 years old and still have charges brought.

The clock on the 2-year statute of limitations on certain misdemeanor sex crimes would also start at age 23, giving victims another five years —until they reach age 25 — to bring charges. 

Also under the new legislation, victims would have until age 50 to bring civil action against their attackers.

A key provision of the bill would create a one-year window to allow older victims to come forward within that time frame. Of course, the victims would have to prove their cases in court, so fears of abusers being railroaded through the justice system are moot.

It’s that urgent that state lawmakers come back into special session and pass this legislation now, before any more victims are denied justice.

The Pennsylvania report is available online. It’s absolutely horrifying.

We urge all of our state lawmakers to read it. Click here for a copy of the report.

If that doesn’t open their eyes to the desperate need for this legislation, then nothing will. And that’s more than a shame. It’s a crime.

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