The Massachusetts House voted last week to virtually lift the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of sexual abusers of children, but left in place the statute for civil lawsuits. The Senate, which plans to take up the bill as early as today, wanted to lift all caps on both.
The measure would change the state’s statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, making it possible for prosecutors to bring charges 27 years after the victim first reports the episode, or 27 years after the victim turns 16. And prosecutors could bring charges in cases that occurred longer ago if there is independent evidence that corroborates the victim’s allegations. (The 27-year period, which would replace a 15-year limit in the current law, was chosen as a compromise, but also is supposed to allow enough time for victims to reach adulthood and recognize that abuse is a prosecutable crime.)
In general I’m in favor, but I’m left with a niggling concern that after 30 years how much evidence would be left for someone who is falsely accused to defend himself?
Naturally, the trial lawyers and lawyers representing abuse victims don’t like that the civil lawsuit limit is still in place because it limits their ability to bring new lawsuits. What they should be doing is rather than salivating at how much more money they can extract from the church, they should be preparing lawsuits on behalf of victims of teachers. After all, we know that children are an order of magnitude more likely to be abused by teachers than priests and that there are a lot of teacher-abuse victims out there. Of course, government immunity laws mean you won’t get much from your lawsuit, but money’s not the object, right? Right?
Update: The bill was passed by the Senate today.
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