tireless efforts of hundreds of caring Catholics
and dedicated survivors, lawmakers in several
states are considering civil "windows"
(like California's) to expose the predators,
protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
And because of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton's recent
disclosure of his childhood victimization by
a priest and his support for such "windows,"
the issue is beginning to attract more public
Years and years of our own research, experience
and advocacy (along with history, psychology
and common sense) convince us that a civil "window"
is the single most effective step toward preventing
future abuse. Here's how:
enables victims to publicly expose the predators
who hurt them, through the open, impartial,
time-tested American judicial system. It means
that parents, neighbors and employers will know
about potentially dangerous individuals.
Through the balanced judicial process -
depositions, discovery, interrogatories and
sworn testimony - anyone who ignored a sex crime,
shielded a molester, destroyed a document or
deceived a victim's family may also be exposed.
to know whether their pastor or day care center
director or athletic association harbored a
sex offender, stonewalled a prosecutor, or lied
to a parent.
to know whether a diocese or a summer camp director
knowingly hired child molesters.
3) Fear of
Without the "window," a supervisor
who's been lax about child safety has no incentive
to change bad habits or work harder.
With the "window,"
decision-makers will know that if they insensitively
shun a victim or recklessly endanger a child,
they may be exposed in court and face consequences
for having done so.
4) Fear of
Passage of the "window" will prod
defense lawyers, public relations staff and
others to beef up child sex abuse prevention
will start asking their supervisors "Do
we do background checks on everyone here?"
and "Are we ready for a potential lawsuit?"
will start or expand efforts to train adults
about reporting abuse and teach kids about "safe
touch," knowing that
- victims are less inclined to sue an institution
that seems to take abuse seriously,
- judges and juries are more lenient with institutions
that are already addressing the problem which
led to a lawsuit.