DC Child Protection



Survivors Network of those Abused By Priests

Additional Information
Washington DC City Council Bill 17-1046

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Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention Amendment Act of 2007

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1. Victims Seek More Time 

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As victims of child sexual abuse we couldn’t come forward sooner. We’re merely asking for more time. We’re not asking to reduce the burden of proof necessary to prove our case and we not asking to set aside the rules of evidence. We recognize that in order for us to succeed in a court of law the burden of proof is on us. We must not only prove that we’ve been abused, prove that we have suffered damages as a result of the abuse but also that someone in authority knew our perpetrators were abusing before they got to us. We recognize that the burden is huge but we are asking that we be permitted to have the chance to bring our cases. We’d like our cases to be judged on the merits not on the technicality of the archaic and arbitrary statutes of limitation. Mental health professionals acknowledge that child victims of sexual abuse usually can’t report until we are well into adulthood. We are asking to match the Code of law of the District of Columbia to reflect the understandings of mental health professionals and bring the law up to the mental health standards of 2007.

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2. Agencies, Institutions and Organizations Not Liable Unless They Had Notice 

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Many church leaders and leaders of other organizations are expressing concerns over the fairness of them being held accountable for actions that took place 30 or 40 years ago. The reality is that if the responsible organization did not have notice, (was not aware that the employee had previously molested a child, or had some type of information that would have raised concerns that he or she might abuse a child) the agency or organization cannot be held liable. The only time that an institution can be held liable is if they knew the predator had a history and did not take appropriate action. In other words the agency is not liable if they didn’t know and had no way of knowing. A requirement for bringing the civil action is that the party had notice of the danger the predator posed. If they didn’t and couldn’t have notice they are not liable.

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3. Public safety risk that could be diminished 

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The Department of Justice estimates that only about 10% of sexual predators are identified. We believe this bill targets some of the other 90% who haven’t been identified. There is a generation of victims who are now adults and are now able to speak up and identify their perpetrators. The “window” in the bill allows capable victims to do just that. While being abused and for years after it ended child victims couldn’t speak up. By the time they were able the statutes of limitation prevented them from doing so. But many of their perpetrators are still working in positions where they interact with children and many interact with unsuspecting neighbors who don’t know their history. This bill would allow adults who previously were time-barred from bringing a lawsuit and naming their perpetrators to do so now. This will greatly assist in protecting children today who receive services by organizations who employ these predators as well as the children who live near them.

 
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