Child Rape Case Renews Appeal
Advocates Press to Lift Limits on Law

By Ralph Ranalli
Boston Globe [Boston MA]
September 30, 2004

A coalition of sexual abuse survivors and advocates for children renewed a call yesterday for state lawmakers to repeal the statue of limitations on child sexual abuse after a district attorney's decision to drop child rape charges against Bishop Thomas L. Dupre, retired leader of the Roman Diocese of Springfield.

A Hampden County grand jury indicted Dupre on two counts of child rape Monday, but just a few hours later District Attorney William M. Bennett announced that he was dismissing the charges because they fell outside the six-year statute of limitations in force at the time of the alleged abuse. Dupre, who was accused of raping two boys on multiple occasions during the 1970s, is the first US bishop to face criminal charges, however briefly, of child sexual abuse.

"The events of the last few days have fueled our resolve," said Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children. "DA Bennett wanted to pursue this prosecution, but he was prevented from doing so."

Last year, at the height of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the same group of advocates sought to have the Legislature abolish the statute of limitations in cases of child rape and serious abuse, which is currently 15 years.

Carmen Durso, a Boston lawyer who has represented dozens of clergy sexual abuse victims, called the current statue of limitations inadequate and said that a survey he conducted of 30 of his clients found that they had waited an average of 32 years before coming forward to report their abuse.

"Child sexual abuse is the perfect crime," Durso said. "At the time the crime is being committed, the psychological damage being caused is making it more difficult for the victim to come forward."

The proposal to drop the statute of limitations was opposed by the state's criminal defense lawyers, who argued that such cases could not be fairly prosecuted decades after the alleged abuse happened. The leadership in the House of Representatives was widely seen as hostile to the idea, and the bill died in committee.

Yesterday, advocates urged the new speaker of the House -- Salvatore F. DiMasi, a Democrat from the North End -- to take a second look at the idea. "It's a new legislative session, so we're going to start fresh," said Ann Hagan Webb, New England co-coordinator of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests at a news conference at the State House.

The advocates also urged Governor Mitt Romney and Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly to back the proposal, but Reilly has also been cool to the idea in the past, saying he prefers tougher penalties for convicted abusers.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.