CA - Sex Abuse Victims Seek New California Laws and More Vigorous Prosecution of Molesters
For immediate release:
Friday, June 27, 2003
For more information:
Mary Grant, Los Angeles (626) 419 2930 cell, (562) 433 3249 home
Joelle Casteix, Orange County (949) 322 7434 cell, (949) 644-7287 home office
David Clohessy, St. Louis, National Director (314) 566 9790 cell
Terrie Light, San Francisco, Board Member (510) 517 3338
Mark Serrano, Leesburg VA, Board Member (703) 771 9606
Barbara Blaine, Chicago, President (312) 399 4747 cell
Paul Walsh, Boston, (508) 997-0711
SNAP Urges DAs to Release Names of Suspects Not Criminally Charged and Asks Legislators to Toughen Existing Laws
(Statement by Joelle Casteix of Corona Del Mar, CA, who was sexually abused in the Diocese of Orange, CA)
First a few words of thanks are in order.
Thanks to all the lawmakers who voted for the 1994 criminal law. Thanks to the governor who signed it. Thanks to the police and prosecutors who used it to keep our children safe, if only temporarily. Because of the collective efforts of these public officials, some 800 predators were taken off the streets, if only temporarily. Every parent in California should be grateful for this.
But now, because of the decision of the US Supreme Court, every parent in California should be worried.
And now, for our public officials, it's back to the drawing board.
Yesterday was a bleak day for everyone who wants to keep children safe. It was the beginning of what can be best described as a public safety crisis in California. Hundreds of dangerous men who committed heinous and disgusting crimes against children will now go free. Hundreds more will now never be exposed or jailed. Hundreds of people who covered-up these crimes will go unpunished. Hundreds of victims and their families are worried. And thousands of kids are now at risk.
Today, despite yesterday's Supreme Court ruling, we in SNAP, the Survivors Network, are urging political leaders and prosecutors to keep pursuing child molesters by
- reforming existing laws,
- passing news laws, including an expanded statute of limitations to protect every child well into adulthood, and
- more aggressively using current laws.
We call upon Governor Gray Davis to lead the charge.
As men and women who were molested by clergy and agents of the church, we in SNAP have one overriding concern. We want to do everything we can to safeguard children. So we are calling for increased efforts from three groups.
First, we want legislators to enact new laws and strengthen existing laws so that abusers and those who shelter them can be prosecuted, and kids can be protected.
How can this be done?
- Perhaps these dangerous men can be required to register as sex offenders, even though their sentences are cut short or their prosecution is thwarted.
- Maybe the penalties for failure to report suspected abuse can be increased.
- Maybe California's statute on vicarious liability can be strengthened, so that those who supervise people who work with children can be more clearly held accountable for the misbehavior of their employees.
- Maybe the state can enact laws that revoke the tax-exempt status of any group the harbors, protects and hides molesters
- Maybe other states have more effective laws on child endangerment that can be used, as was done in New Hampshire, to hold employers and supervisors responsible for crimes committed against kids on their watch.
Abuse victims across the country have always looked to California as a pioneer in laws designed to safeguard kids. We call on state legislators work harder and smarter, and pass new laws and toughen existing laws so that abusers can be jailed, parents can be reassured and children can be safe.
Second, we want prosecutors to keep pursuing child molesters by more aggressively using current laws and by publicly naming suspects who were about to be charged under the 1994 law overturned yesterday by the Supreme Court.
One brave prosecutor has already done this. Because of the archaic and dangerous statue of limitations, Bristol County (MA) District Attorney Paul Walsh, Jr. was able to charge only a handful of the 21 alleged abusive priests in his county. ''We're prohibited from an effective prosecution and the priests are prohibited from an effective exoneration. That's the injustice for the victims and the guys on the (suspected abusers) list,'' he told the Boston Globe (9.27.02). So Walsh publicly named the other perpetrators he would have criminally charged if he had been able.
SNAP is asking California prosecutors to do the same.
We in SNAP also want prosecutors to more aggressively use existing laws, such as:
- Aiding and abetting a crime,
- Failure to report suspected abuse,
- Child porn,
- Child endangerment
… to go after abusers.
It's important to remember that notorious gangster Al Capone was charged with income tax evasion, and we want to see police and DAs work even more creatively to arrest and charge molesters. There are many ways to make sure the perpetrators are punished.
Third, and finally, we want abuse victims to keep coming forward.
Please, for the sake of vulnerable children, we implore and trust that police, prosecutor and political leaders will come up with ways to charge your abuser.
If you do come forward, you may or may not get justice. You will, however, begin to heal.