PBS News Hour
November 28, 2017
By Laura Santhanam
On April 27, 2016, former U.S. house speaker Dennis Hastert was convicted of breaking banking law, but crimes to which he confessed in court — sexually abusing multiple high school boys in Illinois while he served as their wrestling coach nearly four decades ago — would never be prosecuted. Their statutes of limitations had expired.
A year later, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan declared the state had removed the criminal statute of limitation for sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated sexual abuse against children. She credited Illinois’ passage of that legislation with the “powerful and courageous testimony of survivors,” many of them speaking publicly for the first time after years of silence, anger and shame.
“Tragically, there are millions of people whose childhoods are tarnished by sexual assault and sexual abuse,” Madigan said in an email to the NewsHour. “For decades they struggle to come to terms with the terrible impacts these crimes have on their lives – including the troubling fact that very few of the perpetrators are held accountable.”
In recent weeks, high-profile and long-buried stories of sexual assault and harassment have cropped up across the country. Since Oct. 5, when the New York Times published its investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Hollywood film producer and executive Harvey Weinstein, dozens of women and men have come forward with their own stories about sexual misconduct by other powerful men, from Roy Moore, Alabama’s Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, to Charlie Rose, a long-time broadcast news host for PBS and CBS News.
But after they share their stories, what legal standing do victims of sexual harassment and assault have to pursue those accusations in court? That depends in large part on the statutes of limitations that apply in their state.
Nationwide, one out of three women said they have been sexually harassed or abused at work, according to a recent poll from the PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist Poll. But according to 2016 federal data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which monitors reports of unwelcome sexual advances at the workplace, 6,914 incidents of sexual harassment were filed that year. Many more cases go unreported.
Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.