Cincinnati Enquirer / cincinnati.com
August 13, 2021
By Teresa Dinwiddie-Herrmann
The citizens of Ohio must once and for all rip the legislative duct tape off the mouths of countless child sexual abuse victims. As a concerned parent, it just seems that we Ohioans should finally hold our lawmakers to task and insist that they remove “Statutes of Limitations” for prosecution of sexual abuse for three very important reasons.
First, so we can finally allow all sexual abuse victims to have an opportunity for justice by being able to report their abuse on whatever timeline feels safe and right for them. Secondly, so we can finally allow law enforcement to find and publicly expose the hidden predators that lurk among us in plain sight. Lastly, so we can finally know that our children have better and more updated protection from sexual abuse under Ohio law.
Two years ago, this very week, a local Catholic priest was removed from St. Ignatius Catholic Church for texting a young boy. He was later arrested and charged with nine counts of rape of a child that had been just 10 years old when the abuse began. Father Geoffrey Drew is still in the Hamilton County Jail awaiting the trial. A second victim came forward in this case, yet he will not be allowed his own day in court with Drew because by current Ohio law, his “statute of limitations,” or the time allotted to prosecute.
For this alleged predator and for many, years can pass before their victim or victims come forward. According to Child USA, studies show that a victim often is delayed in disclosing their abuse. The median age to disclose is 48 and average age to disclose is 52 years of age. Newer research also shows that this type of abuse is sadly rampant. One in four girls and one in 13 boys on average will experience a form of child sexual abuse. The laws that dictate when victims may pursue justice for the crimes committed against them, are just simply outdated.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.
Since decades can pass before a victim reports abuse, and our current statute of limitations laws don’t allow for this abuse to be prosecuted after a specified time, rapists can be free to work and live among our community and free to abuse countless other victims. Statute of limitations laws protect predators, not children. Studies show that child abusers can continue to abuse into their elder years. If we continue to allow these offenders to be free in our community, they will continue to offend.
Consider that Drew alone has been around thousands and thousands of children in various roles, over three decades and over three counties of Ohio, and there were many complaints about his inappropriate behavior around boys, with no consequences. Arresting predators and seeking justice in criminal courts will take predators out of our communities, out of the churches, the schools, the sports and organizations where they may work to have access to victims…our children.
Our outdated Ohio laws do not account for the easier access potential offenders have to potential victims in this day and age. The rapid evolving technology and social media have allowed offenders much faster and easier access to potential victims. We need to update our laws to reflect the change in protection needed for our children, as many other states have already done. Ohio House Bill 266 is currently awaiting testimony in the Criminal Justice Committee. It is time for our legislators, on both sides of the aisle, to step up and take the legislative action to ensure passage of Ohio House Bill 266 into law.
Ohio children deserve to be safe where they live, learn, play and pray, and it is time that we – you and I – ask that they make it happen!
Teresa Dinwiddie-Herrmann is a Catholic mom who spends her time running children to activities, working as an event planner, as well as advocating for child protection and justice for victims of child sexual abuse with the Concerned Catholics of Cincinnati.