If we are to assume that our efforts in letting others know our views are at least partially for the purpose of fighting injustice, it goes without saying that we are obliged to speak the loudest in defense of those who are unable to defend themselves. No other group needs our voice and protection more than children do.
Due to the incredible courage of my friend Ana Wagner, the subject of sexual abuse towards children has become a subject more prominent in my thoughts. I chose those words carefully. “Prominent in my thoughts” clearly identifies this as something that has been of great importance long before I bothered to pay attention. I am confident that many others reading this fall into the same category as I do. Although always finding it abhorrent and despicable on an intellectual level, having never been exposed to it personally it never was something I paid close attention to. It was always something that would disgust me, as it would any decent human being, but it never was “prominent in my thoughts”. Thanks to Ana that is no longer the case. For a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, watching Ana’s heart wrenching revelation of her experience of her own sexual abuse, (CLICK HERE TO SEE HER VIDEO) I learned how over 25 years later these acts of incredible evil will live with her forever. This is a crime with such intense impact on its victim, escaping the memory of it is not an option. When I think back to being a teenager, I remember having the normal trials and tribulations of adolescence. A child who is a victim of sexual abuse does not have that same luxury. Their issues are far greater and have far greater impact on the rest of their lives, and in most cases, whether it is due to shame or as was the case for Ana, fear of consequences, the children remain silent. They have no voice because they feel they have no choice.
The other reason I care more now that I know Ana’s story is that it reveals to you how a child from a loving and normal home can still be a victim from someone connected to the family rather than someone who is part of the family. That means all our children, and by our children I mean those we love and are closest to us, whether or not they are our personal offspring or not, need to be shielded and protected by us. We as adults must accept that obligation to pay close attention, do whatever we can to see the signs, and protect the innocents from predators.
One of the reasons I also felt compelled to write this was to see how I could help in the fight to eliminate the Statute of Limitations in sexual abuse cases. My personal moral compass tells me a Statute of Limitations for sex abuse makes no sense, so I decided to look at the logic based on definitions and see what I would find. Here is what I came up with.
A statute of limitation is a law which forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a specified number of years ago. The general purpose of statutes of limitation is to make sure convictions occur only upon evidence (physical or eyewitness) that has not deteriorated with time.
I also found the following:
.If a plaintiff is a minor or incapacitated by reason of mental illness, the relevant statute of limitations is tolled until the disability is removed.
I am neither a lawyer nor a psychologist, but I do see these definitions as creating all types of holes in the existing Statute of Limitations for sex abuse. I have known Ana for about 5 years and never knew she had gone through the abuse she has recently revealed to the public. I admit I don’t know her as well as others do, but I still can honestly say that I never saw any hint that she was exposed to anything remotely resembling such unspeakable evil. My point is, if a Statute of Limitations is to “make sure convictions occur only upon evidence (physical or eyewitness) that has not deteriorated with time”, how can such a Statute apply to a crime where the suffering is inherently a silent suffering? A suffering where there is no physical evidence unless it is revealed and carefully examined , and where the pain and suffering may diminish and be dealt with, but never deteriorates with time. Secondly when saying “If a plaintiff is a minor or incapacitated by reason of mental illness, the relevant statute of limitations is tolled until the disability is removed”, how do we measure any form of mental illness or disability caused by this crime? Ana’s strength and talents coupled with the support of her loved ones may have allowed her to prevail in life, but even she still feels an immeasurable suffering. For those who can not even function properly in society or maintain personal relationships because of these crimes, by what logic or right does government allow and apply a Statute of Limitations?
If you get nothing else out of this article and Ana’s story let it be this. Watch and protect those who need your attention and protection the most. Be more than just the voice for your children, truly be their guardian and make sure that those you entrust them with are indeed the people you think they are. The stakes are too high to take a risk with that which is more precious than anything else, the children.
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