We recently wrote about the fact that more and more states, including those in the Midwest, are extending statutes of limitations so that more perpetrators are exposed in court, more kids are protected and more victims get justice.
And within hours of that post, more good news emerged.
George and Indiana are joining CA, VT, NJ, NY and other states in finally updating and improving their child sex abuse statutes.
We don’t mean to harp on this. But we want to stress a simple but crucial point: No single piece of legislation can prevent abuse as quickly as civil statute of limitations reform.
Because it enables those most motivated to safeguard kids to act: victims themselves.
Because it prods employers to move quickly to oust known or suspected molesters (otherwise, they risk seeming or being negligent – or worse – and hit with expensive verdicts or settlements
Because it means that within weeks of passage, victims can file suits that alert citizens to potential threats to innocent kids or vulnerable adults.
But the beauty of reforming the civil statutes of limitations goes way beyond just speed.
In criminal prosecution, usually those who commit the offenses are exposed and punished.
In civil cases, however, both those who commit AND those who conceal the offenses are usually exposed and punished.
In criminal prosecution, the bar is very high (“beyond a reasonable doubt”).
In civil cases, however, the bar is more reasonable (“preponderance of the evidence”).
In criminal cases, victims must prod police who must find and prod witnesses and evidence and then prod prosecutors to act.
In civil cases, however, victims themselves can take action, without relying on overworked and underfunded public servants to help them.
In criminal cases, the wrongdoer usually pleads guilty and little or no evidence is made public.
In civil cases, though, no matter what the outcome is, often evidence IS made public. That evidence (whether documents or depositions) often warning those at risk of more abuse and educating the public at large about abuse and cover ups AND causing supervisors and co-workers to ponder how they might be more vigilant about reporting suspicions of sexual exploitation (and thus avoid ever being dragged into court as a witness or defendant in a rape or abuse case).
So cheers to every elected official who is sponsoring or backing these critical measures, especially Indiana State Senators Erin Houchin and Michael Crider and Georgia State Senator Harold Jones. Their bills involve criminal reforms but we hope they’ll also back civil reforms.
Why not call or email your own state senator or state representative today, and urge him or her to side with kids over predators and push for similar legislation in your state?