Civil "Window" Protects Kids
Thanks to the tireless efforts of hundreds of caring Catholics and dedicated survivors, lawmakers in several states are considering civil "windows" (like Delaware and California) to expose the predators, protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
And because of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton's recent disclosure of his victimization and his support for such "windows," the issue is beginning to attract more public attention.
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:
1) Exposing predators.
The "window" 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 men.
2) 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.
Maryland 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.
Ohio citizens deserve to know whether a diocese or a summer camp director knowingly hired child molesters.
3) Fear of litigation.
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 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.