Boy Scout Scandal Reinforces Push For Sex Abuse Justice [AUDIO]
The Boy Scout's 14,000 so-called "perversion list" has now been posted online.
It describes how an array of authorities, from police chiefs, prosecutors and pastors to local Boy Scout leaders, shielded scoutmasters and others accused of molesting children - in Jersey and across the country - for decades.
The accused will not face criminal prosecution because the statute of limitations has expired. But a state lawmaker wants to give victims another way to seek justice.
State Senator Joe Vitale is sponsoring legislation to give victims of child sexual assault access to the courts in a civil matter, retroactively, if the abuse occurred in the past.
He says, "New Jersey law now says you have two years from the time you discovered that the abuse is connected to your injury. You have two years to bring a claim against an individual or institution - and we think that's unfair. We think two years is such a short amount of time for someone who has suffered through so much as a child and now is an adult. My law would abolish the statute of limitations in some cases and would allow victims access to the courts."
Vitale says all he's asking for is for victims to have the opportunity to be heard.
"If the abuse took place in the 60's or the 70's or the 80's - if they want to bring a claim, by all means they should have that opportunity...These are the worse kinds of cases, against people- against children, against humanity, and I can't see for a moment why it is that as a culture, as a society, we wouldn't allow these victims to come forward to seek access to the courts."
He points out even if the cases are old, "the burden of proof is always still on the person who brings the claim. They have to prove that this abuse took place, and the individual or the institution was behind it…They have suffered for so many years in silence and they probably haven't even shared it with their families because it was so horrific for them."
Vitale adds the abuse victims he's worked with for the past 15 years support this measure.
"They're not seeking dollars in retribution - they want justice- there is a difference…Under this measure, the leaders of institutions understand that they will be held accountable in a financial sense. That seems to be what motivates them to do the right thing as opposed to just a moral thing- the right moral thing."
He says the bottom line is that "these victims should have access for justice - no matter what the institution is or who the people are…The measure will be heard at the next Senate voting session, so it'll be likely sometime this month or early next month - we're really hopeful it will get done."
In 1996, New Jersey abolished the statute of limitations for criminal cases moving forward, but the law does not apply to any situation prior to 1996.