Drop Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations, Advocates Say

The Associated Press, carried in Telegram & Gazette [Boston MA]
September 29, 2004

BOSTON- Advocates and victims of sexual abuse gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday, two days after a Catholic bishop escaped prosecution for child rape charges, to call for the elimination of the statute of limitations for sex crimes involving children.

A grand jury charged Bishop Thomas L. Dupre on Monday with raping two boys in the 1970s. But Hampden District Attorney William Bennett said he can't prosecute the former head of the Springfield Diocese because the statute of limitations in place at the time was six years.

"District attorneys all across the state need to have every tool at their disposal to be able to aggressively address this issue," said Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children.

At news conference, Bernier and other advocates, dubbing themselves the "Enough Abuse Legislative Task Force," called on the Legislature to remove the time limits. She pledged a "major movement" statewide to rally support around such legislation.

The grand jury indictment unsealed Monday made Dupre the first Roman Catholic prelate to face criminal charges in the sex abuse scandal still plaguing the U.S. church.

Attorney Carmen Durso, who has represented hundreds of abuse victims, said it can take decades for some victims for come forward. The average age of his clients is 44, but most of them were abused as children.

There's currently a 15-year limit on rape cases, and the statute of limitations ranges from six to 10 years for lesser offenses. If a suspect leaves the state, the clock stops until they return.


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