New Bill Will Protect Grandkids but Let Many ‘enablers’ off the Hook
April 4, 2016
A just-introduced bill in the Pennsylvania legislature will let many who commit or conceal child sex crimes off the hook. It will protect our grandkids, but not our kids. And for years, it will do little or nothing to expose and punish “enablers” – supervisors and colleagues who hid child sex crimes. We hope Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) re-considers his opposition to a civil window.
Marsico’s claim of concern for non-profits is baseless. We challenge him to name a single non-profit that has gone under or been severely hurt in any of the states that have enacted civil windows.
It always has and always will take decades for kids to grow up, understand they’ve been hurt, that the harm is severe, that the abuse cripples them as adults, that they legal options and the moral and civic duty to take action. That’s why we as a society must welcome and help victims of horrific childhood sexual violence, no matter when they are able to realize these realities and summon the strength to speak up.
Years and years of our own research, experience and advocacy (along with history, psychology and common sense) have convinced us that a civil "window" is the single most effective step toward preventing future abuse. Here's how:
1) Exposing predators.
The "window" enables victims to publicly expose the predators who hurt them, through the open, impartial, time-tested American judicial system. It means that parents, neighbors and employers will know about potentially dangerous individuals.
2) Exposing and deterring enablers.
Through the balanced judicial process - depositions, discovery, interrogatories and sworn testimony - anyone who ignored a sex crime, shielded a molester, destroyed a document or deceived a victim's family may also be exposed.
Families deserve to know whether their pastor or day care center director or athletic association harbored a sex offender, stonewalled a prosecutor, or lied to a parent.
Citizens deserve to know whether a diocese or a summer camp director knowingly hired child molesters.
3) Fear of litigation.
Without the "window," a supervisor who's been lax about child safety has no incentive to change bad habits or work harder.
With the "window," decision-makers will know that if they insensitively shun a victim or recklessly endanger a child, they may be exposed in court and face consequences for having done so.
4) Fear of financial consequences.
Passage of the "window" will prod defense lawyers, public relations staff and others to beef up child sex abuse prevention and education.
Concerned employees will start asking their supervisors "Do we do background checks on everyone here?" and "Are we ready for a potential lawsuit?"
Smart organizations will start or expand efforts to train adults about reporting abuse and teach kids about "safe touch," knowing that
- victims are less inclined to sue an institution that seems to take abuse seriously,
- judges and juries are more lenient with institutions that are already addressing the problem which led to a lawsuit.
No matter what happens in Harrisburg, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions in Pennsylvania to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling journalists, get justice by calling attorneys, and get comfort by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.