Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse – Eliminating the Statute of Limitations

In 2004, Nebraska changed it’s law eliminating the statute of limitations on prosecuting child sex crimes, allowing offenders to be prosecuted no matter when they offended.

Now that we’re past the grandfather period for the old statute of limitations, those who work with victims and prosecute the offenders said the law has been beneficial.

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According to Lincoln Child Advocacy Center Director Lynn Ayers, only a third of all child sexual abuse victims report the abuse. Out of those who do, it takes victims at least 2 1/2 years to report. And, many take much longer, meaning, the longer they have to tell the more likely the offender is to pay.

“They have a lot of fear for their own safety. There have been a lot of threats on what might happen to them if the tell. They often feel like it’s their fault and they have a lot of shame and embarrassment around it,” said Ayers.

The list of reason’s a child victim won’t talk about sexual abuse goes on and on.

“If they come forward and talk about it at all, it’s when they’re in their adult years and dealing with the aftermath of the abuse,” Ayers said.

Ayers said when Nebraska had a statute of limitations for child sex abuse it was hard to make sure offenders paid for their crimes.

“Basically by the time they reached their 23rd birthday and hadn’t told anyone, the perpetrator could kind of breath a sigh of relief,” said Ayers.

Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly agrees the law has been beneficial.

“My guess is each and every month we have one or two or three cases that under the old law we could not have prosecuted,” said Kelly.

One recent high profile case of child sexual abuse is that of long time Lincoln soccer coach Sanford Kaplan. With the unlimited time to prosecute he was convicted of abusing several of his players where he might otherwise have gotten away.

“We would have asked the other victims to testify at trial to add to or bolster your case, but you couldn’t prosecute for them,” said Kelly.

More than anything it helps society understand the how serious the problem of child sexual abuse is.

“Removing that limitation not only accommodates what we know about how victims tell, but it also underscores the serious nature of this crime.” said Ayers.

Most victims are abused by a family member, care giver or trusted person like a scout leader, priest or coach according to Ayers, which makes getting information from children even harder. She said a true serial child offender will have 400 victims over a 25 or 30 year period meaning time is on the victims side

Published in: on June 12, 2009 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  

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