Yesterday I had the opportunity to testify in front of a Committee at the Utah Legislature and express my opinion on why Utah's Civil Statute of Limitations concerning Child Sexual Abuse cases is among the worst in the nation.
Currently, Utah’s law says a victim has only four years from the time they turn 18, or the time of Discovery to file a civil action in court. To those of us who are survivors of childhood sexual assault, that statute is laughable. You might as well say that the victim has no civil rights whatsoever because it is incredibly rare that a victim of childhood sexual assault will be able to come forward and report their abuse ever. Let alone in four years.
My case is fairly typical in regards to the amount of time it takes for survivors to deal with and report incidents of abuse.
It took two years of grooming for my abuser to “cross the line” into illegal behavior. It took me four years to gain the courage to make it stop. It took me eight years to realize that it had not been my fault. It took a total of 19 years to get the courage to go talk to the school district. It took them only two days to verify my story, gain her confession, and have her fired.
Unfortunately, it took the State Licensing Board only two years to hand her back her license without ever talking to or notifying me. Just this past month, I learned that there were at least 4 other victims of this teacher’s abuse.
The average age that a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to come forward is FORTHY YEARS OLD. There are many factors contributing to this fact.
- Even when the victim clearly remembers the abuse, it often takes several years into adulthood before the person has the rationing skills to realize that they were even sexually abused, and not a willing partner. Predators often use the physical responses of the victim’s body to convince the child that they somehow “asked for it”.
- Once the victim has reached adulthood and finally sees clearly the responsibility of the perpetrator in the abuse, it still can take many more years to overcome the shame that has penetrated every fiber of their being for so many years, enough to be able to tell even their most trusted loved ones. Often, there is fear that if anyone finds out, they will no longer be loved.
- After coming to terms with the shame to the point where they can at least tell their closest loved ones, the idea of allowing the information to be public is still terrifying.
- During all of those years, it is very common to have to undergo extensive therapy and programs to try to deal with the aftermath of such abuse. Disorders such as anxiety, eating disorders, alcoholism, drug use and deep depression cause decades of pain for both the victim and their loved ones. Seeking help is very costly and can be required for years.
Time is a natural deterrent to civil and criminal actions against perpetrators, simply because with time, evidence fades. But if a victim can prove that sexual abuse did occur, I see no reason to protect the perpetrator from being held accountable for their actions, on both a criminal and civil level.
Some may ask, “But what if a perpetrator has a change of heart? Shouldn’t they have a chance to move on with their lives?” Absolutely. But a part of true repentance is making restitution in as much as it is possible. Someone who truly realized the extent of the damage they have caused, would want to do all in their power to make it right. They would want to contribute to the costs of healing their victims endure.
Insurance companies who fear that increasing the Statute of Limitations leaves them vulnerable indefinitely, have the opportunity to be a part of changing the culture we live in that favors the abuser at the expense of the abused.
Insurance companies can write their policies in such a way that that school districts, companies and organizations will only be covered for such incidents of sexual abuse when they have done all in their power to prevent it. However, if an institution fails to put safeguards in place to prevent such abuse, ignores accusations or fails to report suspicions to proper investigative authorities, their insurance coverage could be terminated as they would have broken the conditions of their contract.
Currently, 1 in every 10 students will experience sexual misconduct by an educator before they graduate from high school. This statistic will not improve until we, as a community, stop protecting the abuser at the expense of our children…until we stop defending institutions who turn a blind eye to accusations in their midst…until we decide that the abuse of one child is one child too many.