Unintended Consequences of Supporting Child Sexual Abuse
By Barry Goldstein
Did the Catholic Church Know They Were Promoting Abortion?
In many ways, opposition to abortion represents the soul of the Catholic Church. The Church has been willing to regulate women’s private decisions about their bodies because they view abortion as the murder of a baby. Accordingly, there can be no compromise and no tolerance for any laws or actions that promote abortion. The Republicans in the State Senate have blocked any legislation that might encourage abortion because they view abortion as a moral absolute.
And then the Catholic Church spent large sums of money and the State Senate leaders refused to even consider a legislative proposal that would result in a significant reduction in abortion. Legislation to reform the Statute of Limitations for criminal and civil suits regarding child sexual abuse. The research connecting child sexual abuse with future abortions is highly credible, but the two groups who view abortion as a critical moral issue appeared to be more concerned with protecting heinous perverts than innocent children or the unborn.
The fundamental problem with the present Statute of Limitations in child sexual abuse cases is that it is completely unrealistic. Sexual abuse creates profound trauma and is especially harmful when committed against children who have far fewer coping skills than adults. Children use a variety of coping skills and defense mechanisms including a form of amnesia just to try to survive the trauma. In many cases the victims’ silence is coerced with threats to harm them or other family members if they tell. Society further discourages children from telling by the widespread myth that children frequently make false reports of sexual abuse. These and other factors prevent most sexual abuse victims from reporting their rapist before reaching the age of 23. It takes the average child 21 years to disclose their abuse. Meaning most children are excluded from justice, and most abusers are protected by the law.
The overly restrictive Statute of Limitations doesn’t just keep survivors from the courts. In many ways it encourages predators to brutalize still more children. Those who avoid criminal prosecution are available to abuse more children and are likely to do so. The SOL law together with other laws and practices that make it hard to prosecute sexual predators encourage predators to commit their crimes because they are unlikely to face penalties. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one quarter of children in the U.S will be sexually abused by the time they reach 18. Laws that favor predators contribute to our inability to protect children.
Among the many horrible consequences of child sexual abuse is that survivors are more likely to engage in risky sexual activities. This leads directly to more abortions. Some of the child rapes also lead to unwanted pregnancies and then abortions. The Adverse Childhood Experiences study by the CDC demonstrated that sexual abuse survivors experience more induced abortions as well as spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) than their peers who aren’t sexually abused. Both sides of the abortion debate should be able to agree on reducing abortions by preventing child sexual abuse.
The Catholic League recently gloated very publicly over their “success” (in promoting abortion) and attacked the “victim’s lobby.” Ironically the public service organizations that work to protect children have the expertise about child sexual abuse that their opponents were missing. If the Church showed more humility they could have met with child advocates and learned how the Church’s position was promoting abortion. Similarly, the Republican leadership in the Senate refused to even meet with child victims who are the experts.
We may never know if the opponents of SOL reform knew they were promoting abortion, but with the publication of this article there will be no doubt in the future. Either those who refused to protect children will show themselves as the biggest hypocrites ever or they will immediately start working with the child advocates. We don’t mind if the Catholic Church and the Senate Republicans think of SOL reform as legislation that will prevent many abortions. We know that this legislation will also help many adult survivors heal and protect New York’s children from unspeakable trauma.