Remove state’s statute of limitations for sex abuse cases
By Dan Ornstein
The state of New York joins Mississippi, Alabama and Michigan as the four states with a five-year statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse. Yet, research overwhelmingly shows that children most often cannot begin to confront the trauma of having been sexually abused until well into adulthood.
Professor Marci Hamilton, a legal scholar and social justice activist who researches sexual abuse law, estimates that the median ages at which women and men first disclose having been abused as children are 41 and 38, respectively. Nonetheless, New York law persists in setting the limit for bringing a criminal suit against one’s alleged abuser at age 23, only five years past legal adulthood.
More than 100 rabbinic leaders in New York, myself included, are renewing our call urging the state Legislature to remove this statute of limitations when it revisits limitations reform this spring. As people committed to the best values of Judaism and democratic society, we stand by the teaching of Rabbi Abraham Heschel, one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century, that in a free society, some are guilty but all are responsible.