Sunday, August 05, 2007

Statute of Limitations Reform in Child Sexual Abuse Cases


National District Attorneys Association endorses statute of limitations reform in childhood sexual abuse cases

Portland, Oregon -- The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), meeting in Portland, Oregon this week, unanimously adopted a resolution calling on state legislators to reform statute of limitation laws that governing the ability of victims to commence criminal and civil legal actions.

Recognizing that it is often much later in life when victims equate the injuries they suffer with the sexual abuse they experienced as a child, national prosecutors are acutely aware of why most of these crimes go unreported for many years, and as a result, offenders often escape responsibility for their criminal actions.

Marci Hamilton, a professor of Law at Yeshiva University in New York; author of the forthcoming book “How to Deliver Us from Evil: What America Must Do to Protect its Children;” called the statement by the national district attorneys a “historic endorsement of what needs to be done to identify child predators in America.”

Hamilton, who is also a board member of NAPSAC, said “It is unfortunate that most child predators are never prosecuted because they enjoy the freedom of movement afforded to them by the existing statutes of limitation—and clearly, our nation's prosecutors understand that.”

Prosecutors James Backstrom and Susan Gaertner, both of Minnesota, were instrumental in working with NAPSAC to pass the resolution.

Gaertner, an experienced trial attorney who has prosecuted sexual assaults against children and is now the elected County Attorney of Ramsey County (St. Paul), emphasized that the problem of child sex abuse is much larger than most people know. She told the meeting of fellow District Attorneys that while “most American are aware of the clergy abuse scandals, the sexual abuse of children is not limited to any one religion, class of people or geographic area. It is a societal problem that is much larger than most people understand.”

Backstrom, who also spoke on behalf of the resolution, said as the elected prosecutor in a large suburban Twin Cities county, he aggressively pursues these cases.

However, he pointed out that because there is often a delay in reporting and rarely physical evidence, most prosecutions are not successful. “For this reason,” he said, “it is obvious that the criminal justice system cannot solve this enormous problem on its own. Therefore, it is imperative that we explore a multitude of ways to expose the perpetrators of these crimes and prevent further victimization.”

Click here: Complete Text of NDAA Resolution


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