Statutes of limitations don't help victims
Earlierthis month, a U.S. district judge dismissed the last of five sexualabuse lawsuits against Omaha’s Boys Town. Attorney Patrick Noaker toldthe court that his client, Lance Rivers, was uncommunicative in anArizona psychiatric ward. As a result, Noaker said, he was unable tofurther prosecute the lawsuit.
In another courtroom 10 monthsago, a Douglas County District judge dismissed the suit of Todd Rivers,Lance Rivers’ brother. Todd Rivers had argued that repressed memoriesof abuse suffered at the hands of a priest and a teacher in the 1980sprevented him from taking earlier action. The court didn’t agree andsaid that Todd Rivers’ lawsuit exceeded the Nebraska statue oflimitations on child sexual assault.
The case of another Boys Town alleged victim, James Duffy, also was dismissed because the statute had expired.
NeitherDuffy nor Todd Rivers will ever have his day in court. But the odds ofseeing justice served look better for the next generation of abusevictims. Thanks to Nebraska lawmakers, the statute of limitations onchild sexual assault no longer exists. In 2004, the NebraskaLegislature unanimously passed LB943.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen.Nancy Thompson, issued a press release on April 15, 2004. “Theprovisions of LB943 will help enhance public safety by providing lawenforcement and our judicial system with new tools to fight criminaloffenses against children. Children who have been sexually abused havemany issues that victims of other crimes do not have, and the passageof LB943 will allow the victims of sexual abuse the opportunity toreport these crimes when they are ready to confront their offender. Itwill also give prosecutors the opportunity to prosecute sexualoffenders and to keep them from continuing sexual offenses againstchildren.”
The concept of statute of limitations is nothing new.More than 500 years ago, the English Parliament approved legislationlimiting time frames allowed to file suits. The U.S. justice systemadopted the doctrine. The rationale is that, over time, witnesses dieor their memories fade. Evidence is lost or compromised. Andlaw-enforcement entities simply do not have the resources to handlelarger case backlogs than already exist.
Statutes of limitationsvary from state to state. Typically there are no statutes for so-called“horrific” crimes such as treason, murder, arson and forgery, as is thecase in Nebraska.
Although not retroactive to crimes thatoccurred before its passage, LB943 eliminates the previous statute(seven years from the date the crime is committed or seven years afterthe victims 16th birthday, whichever is later) on sexual assault of achild and when the victim is under 16, for first-, second- andthird-degree child sexual assault.
LB943 also contains several other provisions, including making it a criminal offense to use a computer to entice a child.
Thelineup of LB943 proponents speaking at the legislative hearingsincluded representatives from the Nebraska Commission on the Status ofWomen, Child Advocacy Center, Voices for Children, Parents United,Parents United of the Midlands and Lutheran Family Services. Severalchild-abuse victims also testified in favor of the bill’s passage.
Nebraskaisn’t alone in stepping up to protect children from sexual predators.In recent years, other state legislatures have made changes to childsexual abuse and assault statutes. Massachusetts has been a hotbed ofactivism since a Boston Globe investigation several years ago revealedthe massive clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Roman CatholicArchdiocese of Boston. In September, the Massachusetts statelegislature extended the child sexual abuse statute of limitations fromthe previous 15 years to 27 years. Victims would be able to reportcrimes up until the age of 43. If DNA evidence exists that corroboratesa victim’s allegation, that statute is waived.
MassachusettsHouse of Representatives Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi told the BostonGlobe, “We felt we needed to protect children, and we needed tostrengthen our laws to make sure that sexual predators are brought tojustice and that there is an opportunity for prosecution in thesecases. We’ve seen people who were molested when they were children, andsome people virtually were getting away with it because their statuteof limitations had run (out) and we weren’t able to prosecute.”
Lisa Bennett is married to Steve and lives in Seward. She is a freelance writer, photographer and journalist.
Having a problem accessing a file or finding what you are looking for? Email us
for a listing of alternate locations.
of an article of interest
Publishing a story about TFYQA? - See our for the News Media
Want to share your news! Use Submit TFYQA News
.Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia