End Statute of Limitations on Child Sexual Abuse Cases: Victim Advocates
By William Lee
April 28, 2016
|Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, speaks outside the offices of the Chicago Archdiocese on April 28, 2016, advocating elimination of the statute of limitations for child sex crimes. (Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune)|
A day after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced to prison in a federal banking case tied to the decades-old sexual abuse of a high school wrestler he coached, victim advocates say it's time to get rid of the deadlines for prosecuting child sex crimes.
In handing down the 15-month prison sentence Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin repeatedly slammed Hastert as a "serial child molester" after he acknowledged there were several sexual abuse victims. But prosecutors have noted that Hastert could not be charged with sex crimes in those cases because the statute of limitations had long passed.
In front of the Chicago Archdiocese's Gold Coast headquarters, members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests pushed for state and federal changes regarding statutes of limitations on sex crimes against children and called on the public to pick up the phone and ask their elected officials to act.
SNAP wants Illinois to join the handful of states that have removed statutes of limitations for child sex crimes.
In 2013, then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation that eliminated the criminal statute of limitations for sex crimes that occurred before the victim turned 18 in limited situations. However the law does not work retroactively, leaving some victims with no recourse, SNAP President Barbara Blaine told reporters.
"We are calling on lawmakers in Illinois (to) eliminate the statutes of limitations for once and for all. Protect children, help victims heal and hold perpetrators accountable," Blaine said.
"We need to hold people like Dennis Hastert accountable regardless of when the victims are able to report," Blaine, whose group is best known as advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse, said at a noontime news conference Thursday.
"It's good that Dennis Hastert was found guilty of the crime involving banking, but we know that the real crimes were the sex abuse … and they are not the crimes for which he was convicted. And we think he should be convicted for those child sex crimes."
"When a prosecutor cannot indict an offender for these heinous acts because the statute of limitations has run, it raises serious moral, legal and ethical questions," Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a news release.
Blaine praised Madigan, who also urged state lawmakers to eliminate the statute of limitations for all felony criminal sexual assault cases and any sexual abuse cases involving children.
"We support Lisa Madigan's call to eliminate statutes of limitation. It's time. Illinois has waited too long, it's time now," Blaine said.
She said giving sexual abuse victims the ability to seek justice against their abusers allows for more victims to be heard.
"Even though the courts of Illinois are not perfect, we think that it would make children safer if we cracked open those doors even a little more" she said. "If victims have the chance to report and come forward, usually more victims come forward as well."
In addition to changing state law, Blaine and Anne Clark, an advocate who has worked with federal lawmakers to try to repeal the federal statute of limitations on child sex crimes, said lawmakers should back two separate U.S. Senate bills. One, named after Adam Walsh, a 6-year-old Florida boy murdered by a serial killer, would push the federal statute of limitations from three years to 10, and the other would offer federal grants to states that extend or eliminate unexpired statutes of limitations in child sexual abuse cases.