NY--Victims challenge NY lawmakers on child safety
For immediate release: Monday, March 2
Statement by Mary Caplan of New York City, SNAP Leader, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (917 439 4187, [email protected])
We’re disappointed a New York court has struck down laws limiting where child sex offenders can live and we urge lawmakers to quickly adopt other measures that help protect kids from predators.
For at least decades, child sex abuse has been rampant. Relatively speaking, laws that restrict convicted child molesters are relatively recent. So at best, it’s likely premature to reach firm conclusions on whether or not these laws work.
We challenge those who oppose these restrictions on predators’ whereabouts: Before you try to block further restrictions, come up with a better plan.
One in four girls and one in eight boys is molested. So clearly, what our society is doing now to stop predators and protect kids is failing.
Advocates of relaxing or repealing virtually any child sex abuse law, therefore, have a moral duty to devise some other means of safeguarding kids first.
Those who just nay-say and nit-pick child safety laws endanger kids. Those who ambitiously and creatively try new approaches to child safety protect kids. That’s where our energies should be concentrated – trying harder, thinking smarter and pushing the legal envelop to devise and adopt new approaches to preventing horrific child sex crimes and cover ups.
Finally, convicted child predators aren’t the real threat to kids. The real threat to kids are the vast majority of child molesters who are never caught, convicted or exposed. That’s where our society’s focus should be – on making sure that they are at least publicly exposed.
So the single most effective step legislators could take to protect kids would be to pass Assemblywoman Marge Markey’s bill setting up a civil “window” enabling anyone who was abused at any time by any predator – for a short time – to use the civil courts to warn parents and the public about those who commit and conceal child molesters. This is a cheap, quick and effective way to expose dangerous predators.
We believe reforming New York’s archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly statute of limitations is crucial. Most New York men and women who were raped, sodomized and fondled by child molesters now cannot take legal action against the predators who hurt them nor against the employers who ignored or hid these awful crimes.
If employers do not hide child sex crimes, and if they act responsibly when abuse is suspected or uncovered, they have nothing to fear from this legislation.
Fixing the dangerously restrictive statute of limitations is the single most effective step we can take to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
History, psychology and common sense indicate that civil "windows" helps prevent future abuse in at least four ways:
1) Prevention through exposing predators.
The "window" enables victims to publicly expose the predators who hurt them, through the open, impartial, time-tested American judicial system, so that parents, neighbors and employers will know about potentially dangerous men and women.
2) Prevention through exposing enablers.
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.
New York families deserve 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.
New York citizens deserve to know whether a diocese or a summer camp director knowingly hired child molesters.
3) Deterrence through court disclosures.
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) Deterrence through financial consequences.
Passage of the "window" will prod defense lawyers, public relations staff and others to beef up child sex abuse prevention and education.
Concerned employees will start asking their supervisors "Do we do background checks on everyone here?" and "Are we ready for a potential lawsuit?"
Smart organizations 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.
This "window" makes New York kids safer, now and in the future. We hope all New York citizens, especially parents, work hard for its passage.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)