The unceasing sexual misconduct allegations against the famous and powerful include many assaults of minors. None of them are more politically significant than those against GOP senate candidate Roy Moore. The allegations against Moore are forcing the Republican party to publically decide where they stand on child rape, and this decision is as relevant in Albany as in Alabama.
At the moment, five women have said Ray Moore had sexual relationships with them them when they were teenagers, and colleagues have said it was “common knowledge” that he “dated” teenagers. Alabama evangelicals are aligning themselves with the local Republican party and supporting Moore.
In New York the Republican party and religious leaders have also chosen to side with sex offenders.
The public nature of these accusations is bewildering to some. We are not being bombarded with celebrity arrests; only accusations. And that never sits well in a nation where “all defendants are innocent until proven guilty” is enshrined into law and late-night TV series.
The piece that has been largely ignored, and that compels victims seeking justice to do so publicly, is the statute of limitation (SOLs) on child sexual abuse. If there were no SOLs on the crime in Alabama, Roy Moore’s accusers could have gone to the police quietly and expected a proper investigation. Corey Feldman would have the same opportunity, as would most other victims who are seeking justice in the court of public opinion. Statutes of limitation on these crimes give victims two unsavory choices: stay silent for the rest of their life, knowing their abuser still has every opportunity to abuse, or share their story publicly and face skepticism and criticism.
Research shows it takes survivors, on average, 21 years to disclose their abuse*. But SOLs on the crime deny victims a day in court. SOL’s ensure that most sex offenders cannot experience consequences; 85% escape conviction**. SOL reform is essential if we are to effectively combat child sexual abuse.
In Alabama, victims lose their right to press charges sometime between the age of 20 and 24. In New York most victims lose their rights to press charges on their 23rd birthday.
The main opposition to SOL reform comes from the Catholic Church, who claim that institutions guilty of protecting sexual predators will go bankrupt if this bill passes. This argument does not work in other contexts. Other states have passed legislation with the similar to what New York is trying to pass, without any massive bankruptcies, court congestion or calamities. Only sex offenders names and crimes revealed. But the Church’s argument, combined with millions of dollars invested in lobbying against this legislation for years, have won over the Republicans in New York’s senate.
On both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, the Republican party seems bound and determined to become the party that endorses and supports child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse is one of the ten Adverse Childhood Experiences identified by the Centers for Disease Control as being a trauma so profound that it can change the way a child’s brain, immune system, and endocrine system develop. It causes significant, long-term harm to victims’ physical, mental, and financial health. It impacts their ability to form healthy relationships. It is a harm that does not simply fade with the passage of time. For victims to be systematically denied justice, the backbone of what America represents, hurts profoundly. And knowing abusers are on the streets and around children hurts worse.
The appearance of supporting child rape is unlikely to bode well for any party in a nation where one fifth of the populace was sexually abused as a child. SOL reform has become a prominent issue in New York in the last few years where Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and other Republicans have fought the issue tooth and nail, breaking procedural rules to keep the bill off the floor, and denying public hearings.
If the Republican party is committed to protecting New York’s predators the Democrats must commit to being the party that protects children. Governor Cuomo should lead. Advocates for the Child Victims Act urge him to commit to protecting New York’s children by including this bill as a budget bill. Getting it passed by April 1 2018, as he has done before with Raise the Age, and other controversial, progressive legislative items.
The #MeToo movement is not a fad made by a few malcontents airing dirty laundry. For many victims, it is a flicker of courage, perhaps a first but definitely not the last. Sexual assault of children and adults is incredibly common in our society, victims typically wait years before speaking and experience a lack of justice when they do.
As Martin Luther King Jr put it “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” The Republican party must decide if they are committed to being that dam, and the Democrats, especially Governor Cuomo, must decide how committed they are to children.
*Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse Among Male Survivors” by Scott D. Easton, December of 2013 Clinical Social Work Journal
**Robert Baker of the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board, Massachusetts Office of Public Safety. 2008
Executive Director, Stop Abuse Campaign
A survivor of incest, psychological abuse and a host of other childhood trauma, Melanie now uses her talents to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences. Melanie has over a decade of legislative advocacy regarding children’s issues, and she has been published in newspapers, magazines and blogs all across the country.