Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Statute Of Limitations

A Bit Of Backstory

Have you ever been to law school? I have not either. I got the same basic overview of how the government works that you probably did: The three branches exist to create checks and balances, blah, blah, blah... It has been quite a few years since taking those classes.

But one thing I do know is that the United States Constitution and its amendments exist to ensure that people are treated with fairness and equality, even those accused of crimes. They exist to ensure that the government does not create laws that single people out, deal cruel or unusual punishment, and create a system in which people are treated as people. The recent trend with sex offender laws has been to ignore these rights and laws when it is convenient to "protect the public" and other non-proven fallacious reasons.

There has been a push lately in several states to eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for child sex crimes. Here in Minnesota, that push came several years ago and resulted in eliminating the civil statute of limitations. In other words, victims can come forward at any time in their life to sue and get money from their abuser. This sounds like a great idea, given the financial and other impacts that child sexual abuse has on its victims. However, there is one problem with pushing for this for the criminal statute of limitations: It does not prevent child sexual abuse.

It is yet another piece of legislation, like our current sex offender registry, that is created to punish and ostracize people for committing a particular crime. Yes, that crime is gruesome and has horrid consequences for the victims. However, the criminal justice system is not in place to exact vengeance on criminals, but to ensure that they pay a cost for what they did, and be reformed enough to make sure it will not happen again. That idea of reform is why probation and parole exist.

Many, if not most, child sexual abusers in larger counties will get a sentence of probation, maybe with a little bit of jail time. While repeat abusers and abusers in smaller counties do end up in prison, they are usually paroled if they have good behavior. While I am unfamiliar with the legal concepts involved here, I will say this: Getting a conviction well past the statute of limitations for a crime like child sexual abuse is unlikely to yield prison time or even jail time, particularly if the accused has spent any length of time in the community without similar allegations coming forward. As I have discussed before, the likelihood that sex offenders and child sexual abusers will repeat their crimes is much lower than that of an average criminal. So the whole "prevent another child from being abused" is just a distraction, not a real argument.

I Am Against Changing The Criminal Statute Of Limitations

I am against changing the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, because doing so would not only draw out a victim's pain when they do decide to come forward (by way of a trial that rehashes old memories and feelings), it is extremely unlikely to assist in the prevention of the crime in the first place. It is aimed at punishing people well after their transgressions have occurred, at which point the aim is not justice, restitution, or closure, but about exacting vengeance upon the accused. While child sexual abuse is certainly a crime with very low false reporting, changing the criminal statute of limitations can create a system in which someone literally has no defense against an accusation because of the nature of the crime involved, and that can be abused. I am also against changing the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse because of the impact it has on the victims. Holding onto that baggage further by seeking "justice" against the abuser means that the abuser continues to have control over the victim... by the victim's own choice.

For Victims

I would encourage victims to forgive, heal, and move on so as to not give any more power to the abuser that had such a large impact on their life. Holding that grudge does not affect your abuser, it affects you. Perhaps I am being overly harsh and direct in saying that. Perhaps I have no idea what sort of pain you went through. Perhaps I do not know enough about the legal issues involved. However, your abuser already took things from you when they abused you. Holding a grudge against them means you are letting them take more time, emotion, and energy from you, but this time by your choice and not theirs. Most programs will tell you that someone goes from being a victim, to being a survivor, to being a thriver. You cannot get to being a thriver by holding onto what happened. You need to let it go: Not for them, not so they get away with it (they already have), but for you. You deserve peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated to ensure a safe environment to discuss the issues and difficult content in this blog.