By Melanie Blow
I know where a dangerous sex offender lives. He’s not registered under Megan’s Law and can pass a background check. I believe he is still abusing kids. I know where he meets them and where he abuses them. There is nothing I can do to stop him.
I know this man is dangerous because when I was a child he sexually abused me. I didn’t tell anyone, because he’s a relative and I didn’t want to cause family strife.
When I heard he sexually abused another girl, I called the police hoping to protect other kids. However, I learned that at the tender age of 24, I was too old to press charges. New York’s statute of limitations had closed.
I’ve attended hundreds of support groups and met thousands of survivors. My story is common. One in five children are sexually abused. It takes them an average of 21 years to disclose their abuse. By the time most survivors can talk about their abuse, they can’t press charges. That’s wrong, and dangerous to children.
We assume that children are capable of telling a compassionate adult about their abuse and that authorities are immediately notified. Of the thousands of survivors I’ve talked to, exactly two told someone right away and were subsequently protected.
Many survivors can’t process their own abuse or the possibility of others falling prey to the same abuser. By the time we heal and gain our voice, we learn that the statute of limitations bars many of us from accessing justice. The same statute that keeps victims from court keeps abusers on the streets. Research shows only 10 percent of people who sexually abuse children ever see a day behind bars.
A bill called the Child Victims Act (S.809) eliminates the statute of limitations for new sexual offenses and gives victims one year to sue our abusers, providing survivors a way to out their predator’s crimes, and protects other children.
The bill is being opposed by the Catholic Church and insurance companies, which fear disclosure and accountability. New York’s Republican Senate has blocked every effort to move the bill, putting our children at risk.
One in five is a huge number that seems hopeless, unchangeable. While the public largely ignores the epidemic, survivors live with the memories every day. Abusers are parents, and beloved neighbors, teachers, coaches, scout leaders and day care workers. Their victims know they endanger children but we are the ones the law silences.
People say child sexual abuse is one of the worst types of abuse someone can endure. Being forced to sit idly by while more children are abused is worse. And that won’t change until the laws change. We need to call upon our leaders in Albany to pass the Child Victims Act.
Melanie Blow, of Rochester, is the chief operations officer of the Stop Abuse Campaign.