Let Abuse Victims Seek Justice

By Ted Thompson
July 22, 2008

The Wisconsin Supreme Court handed down a significant ruling last month allowing prosecution of a sex offender to move forward. The case is against an 86-year-old priest for sexually assaulting girls between 1965 and 1972.

The court ruled that sex offenders can be prosecuted for decades-old cases if they left the state before the expiration of the six-year statute of limitations in effect at the time. Fortunately for victims of sexual abuse after 1989, the law now allows prosecutions until age 45.

Ironically, the decision struck a cruel blow to the victims of childhood sexual abuse who only recently have come to terms with their abuse, but whose abusers stayed in Wisconsin and are well beyond the six-year time limit in effect before 1989. Simply because their perpetrators stayed within state lines, they have no ability to pursue justice.

There is, however, an effort under way in the Wisconsin Legislature to correct this situation. Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point. and Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, are sponsoring long-overdue legislation with broad bipartisan support, the Wisconsin Child Victims Act, which would provide a three-year grace period for the filing of lawsuits by victims of childhood sexual abuse whose cases otherwise would be too old to pursue. By allowing these suits, offenders would be made known to the public and removed from positions in which they could victimize additional children. It would also provide an opportunity for past victims to seek justice and accountability.

Allowing child victims of sexual abuse to bring their cases without an artificial time barrier would do more to identify perpetrators and prevent future abuse than other measures. Simply put, let victims seek justice: Give them a voice and by doing so, identify sex offenders in our midst.


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