We are child sex abuse victims and supporters. We belong to a self help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org). Our mission is to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
We’re here today for four reasons.
First, we’re here to praise Cobb County school board members for firing two school staffers who delayed when they should have acted quickly and who talked with one another instead of talking with the police.
Second, we’re here to urge state education officials to highlight the case and remind teachers of their duty to quickly report possible crimes against children,
Third, we want to prod law enforcement agencies to more vigorously investigate and prosecute similar cases, and
Fourth, we beg anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered child sex crimes in institutional settings to call police, expose predators, protect kids and seek justice immediately.
And finally, we are urging Georgia lawmakers to reform the state’s archaic, predator-friendly statutes of limitations which protect guilty criminals, not innocent kids.
It’s surprisingly rare that people are prosecuted for failing to call authorities about suspected child sex crimes. Yet often, in many criminal and civil cases, evidence shows that some adults knew of or suspected a boy or girl was being hurt but kept silent. And it’s often safer and easier for officials to focus on the primary wrongdoer – the abuser – and ignore the secondary wrongdoers – the grownups who kept quiet when they should have spoken up.
So we’re grateful to the school board members who took decisive action against the principal and the counselor. Those who do little or nothing when a child might be suffering should face the toughest penalties. And there’s no tougher penalty the board members could have issued than firing these two. We appreciate the board’s courage.
But we also suspect there are other cases like this out there – other instances in which current or former school staff members waited before calling police, or failed to call police at all. So we are urging Georgia’s State education officials to spread the word about these firings and emphatically warn school officials that others could face a similar fate. This is what teachers call “a teachable moment.” In light of the church scandals (including Eddie Long and Earl Paulk), the coaching scandals (including Penn State and Syracuse) and other scandals, it’s a good time to remind employees that suspected child abuse should be reported not to their supervisors but to the independent professionals in law enforcement.
Today, we also want to urge Georgia’s law enforcement officials to look into and pursue more cases like this. Often, we hear prosecutors complain that the penalties for failure to report such crimes are paltry. But that shouldn’t deter police from investigating them or district attorneys from prosecuting them. A light penalty is better than no penalty at all. And even a handful of people losing their jobs, paying some fines or going to jail – even briefly – can have a strong deterrent effect.
And today, we have a message for anyone who sees, suspects or suffers child abuse – sexual or physical. Healing, justice and prevention are possible. But you must step forward. You need not reveal your identity or sacrifice your privacy. But you must act. Staying silent helps only the predators.
We urge you to speak up, get help, call police, expose predators, protect kids and start healing.
And finally, a message to Georgia’s lawmakers: We’re glad you expanded the mandatory reporting law recently. More adults, not fewer, should be required to call the law when they think kids might be being hurt. But there’s a more effective way to protect kids – repealing or reforming statutes of limitations. These arbitrary, archaic, predator-friendly deadlines help child molesters evade justice and hurt others. They give criminals an incentive to destroy evidence, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, discredit whistleblowers, and move elsewhere, so they can keep on violating kids.
Please, legislators, open the courthouse doors to child victims. Give us the chance to expose and prosecute predators and abusers through the justice system. Help us safeguard children by warning parents about dangerous adults.