Sample Letter for SOL Advocacy
Here is a sample letter that you can use when reaching out to your state representatives and encouraging them to take up the important issue of statute of limitations (SOL) reform. We have also included some helpful links to other information and resources you can use in your advocacy efforts.
SOLs cut off both criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits, and the reform of both may be need in your state. The sample letter can work for either type of SOL, but is focused on changing the laws concerning civil cases. Criminal SOLs cannot be changed retroactively: California tried to do this years ago, and the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that was a violation of the Constitution. The time allowed for prosecution can only be reformed for future cases.This makes civil lawsuits the primary means to identify "hidden predators," and it is virtually the only way to hold those who enabled abuse accountable. Happily, look back windows in civil cases are permitted.
Dear [Title] [Name],
Cases of sexual violence have been in the news a lot lately and it has made me want to ensure that [STATE] is a place where children are protected and survivors of sexual abuse are supported and have the opportunity to seek justice. I am asking for your help.
The need to reform the statute of limitations (SOL) has never been clearer. Changing the SOL laws in [STATE] to allow victims to bring lawsuits forward against the people that abused them - and the institutions that enabled that abuse - is critical to creating the kind of informed communities that are safer for children and vulnerable adults.
According to CHILDUSA.org, only 1/3 of victims of child sexual abuse (CSA) disclose in childhood, and 1/3 never disclose. The average age for a victim of CSA to come forward is 52. Most survivors are silenced by feelings of shame, as well as the fear that they will be disbelieved if they do speak up. Many do not even realize until years later that what happened to them was a crime.
Research has also shown that the effects of childhood sexual abuse can be long-term and severe. It has been correlated with higher levels of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, dissociative patterns, eating disorders and suicidal ideation. Many survivors cope by substance abuse or other addictions. Adults with a history of child abuse are also 30% more likely to have serious medical conditions like cancer or heart problems.
Through no fault of their own, many survivors have lived lives filled with pain and illness. The abuse may also have impacted their education, their employment history, or even resulted in criminal convictions. By reforming the SOL laws that prevent those abused as children from filing lawsuits, we can begin to transfer some of the costs associated with abuse from the victim to the perpetrator and his/her enablers.
Similarly, when those who hurt children are allowed to remain hidden within the community due to statute of limitations barriers, it leaves other children at risk of abuse and the lifelong costs and adverse effects that come with that abuse.
By reforming SOL laws, we are not only providing survivors with an opportunity to experience justice and closure, but also to use their experiences to better inform communities and institutions about how abuse occurs and is hidden. Changing the statutes of limitation can give survivors the chance for their experiences to have a positive meaning for others, and for the pain they have experienced to lead to new policies and procedures that will help prevent other children from being abused in the future.
I urge you to take up the issue of statue of limitations reform in [STATE] and help us make sure that we are keeping children safe, institutions accountable, and survivors supported.
Important note: Make sure that you identify yourself as a constituent of your legislator by including your address in your letter. Legislators are far more likely to engage with their own constituents.
Other Helpful Resources