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Sarah O'Leary

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Sex Offenders Find an Unlikely Ally in the Catholic Church

Posted: 06/18/2012 12:10 pm

There is no statute of limitation (i.e., a time frame set by government in which a crime may be prosecuted) in the U.S. for murder. So why are there state-by-state time limits for sexual assault, and why is the Catholic Church actively attempting to protect sex offenders from prosecution?

The New York Times reported this week that the Catholic Church has been lobbying politicians regarding time limits on sexual assault. And, rather than make it easier for victims to face their perpetrators, the Church may be hoping to do just the opposite. It seems the Church doesn't want children who were sexually abused to have the opportunity to prosecute the priests who they claim have harmed them. What about the risks posed by fuzzy memories or evidence contamination, after all? According to the Church, these are two of the many reasons that boys and girls molested by priests shouldn't get their days in court.

But alas, this Catholic fears the Catholic Church's reasoning is simply (and pathetically) nothing more than a flimsy, convenient façade. Catholic leaders want the horrific crimes perpetrated by priests on little boys and girls to go away because it hurts the Church, not because evidence gets old or memories fade. Catholic leadership doesn't want to admit to the abuse, or risk exposing how many in its ranks looked the other way or actively hide the abuses they witnessed. The Church doesn't want to deal with the emotional backlash of these God-less crimes against children, or pay these once trusting victims for their pain and suffering. With over $2 billion spent by the church in legal fees, victim payouts and the like, it's safe to assume the Church wants to limit the damage to the coffers as well.

Rather than do what is Christ-like -- what is right and what is good -- the Catholic Church hired outside consultants to make it even harder for victims to face their alleged perpetrators in criminal court. And, by protecting its own selfish interests, it inadvertently provides safe haven for rapists and pedophiles the nation over who benefit from time elapsing on their crimes.

Jerry Sandusky, the accused serial pedophile currently on trial for raping and sexually molesting several at-risk boys over the span of years, hopes to benefit from his state's time limits. Sandusky's defense team is keenly aware of Pennsylvania's time limits, and is desperately fighting to keep Jerry out of the hell of prison by making the hell the child victims allegedly suffered at his hands seem like old news. Should a rape victim be told that, because he/she couldn't tell his story to the right people in time, he no longer deserves legal recourse?

When the statute of limitations for sexual assault expires, the only ones who lets out a sigh of relief is the rapist and his/her abettors. Predators who have not been caught should live in constant fear of prosecution, an ever-present reminder of the atrocities they exacted. They should be forced to look over their shoulders until their last breaths are drawn, fearing the moment when they may be held accountable for their crimes. The victim cannot forget what happened, why should sexual criminals or our legal system or the Catholic Church be afforded such luxury?

A friend of mine was raped as a young girl over the period of several years by her stepfather. She carried a child's sense of guilt and shame well into her adult life, holding herself responsible for what he had done to her. When she finally came to grips with what had happened, she was told it was too late. She couldn't send him to prison for what he had done to that very little girl. Knowing that she might not even find a lawyer who would take the case, she eventually sued her rapist for damages in civil court. Thankfully, the arrogant pedophile admitted to the sexual assaults in a pre-trial deposition. She received a cash settlement (he was as wealthy as he was stupid) that covered some, but certainly not all, of the costs of her therapy. Her pedophile rapist never did one dime of time behind bars, and her emotional wounds plague her to this day. She is in her 40s.

A sexual assault victim shouldn't be told that the criminal clock rain out because we don't want to flood the court system with old cases or that people's memories fade making them somehow unreliable or that it's just plain hard to keep all that evidence hanging around in storage. All victims deserve justice, regardless how inconvenient it might be for the rest of us.

Time limits for the criminal prosecution of sexual abuse is pro-abuser, not pro-victim. Sexual assault victims don't get to forget. Neither should the sick, twisted members of our society who harmed them.

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