Myth vs. Fact
MYTH: "This bill singles out the Catholic Church."
FACT: National statistics show that 85% of sexual abusers are interfamily (e.g., an uncle, father, stepfather or family friend, baby sitters, etc.) and only a small percentage of sexual abusers are priests and authority figures in all religions. However, the Catholic Church through transferring pedophile priests to other parishes and the cover-up of the crimes of these priests by its leaders has institutionalized enabling sexual predators.
MYTH: "This bill will hurt the good priests."
FACT: According to the most conservative statistics between 1950 and the present, 6,000 Catholic clergy abused 13,000 children in the U.S. Priest abusers only make up 4% of the total priests¹. The priests who have been faithful to the teachings of Christ are living under the cloud of suspicion of child abuse. This bill will actually help the majority of priests who are not sexually abusive. ¹ The Dialog, January 2, 2007- Russell Shaw.
MYTH: "Cases 20, 30 years old are difficult to defend."
FACT: Cases 20, 30 years old are very, very difficult to win. The rules of evidence and burden of proof are still in play. It remains the responsibility of the accuser to prove the accusations.
MYTH: "Lawyers tell me this window which is retroactive is unconstitutional."
FACT: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a retroactive criminal law is unconstitutional (Stogner v. California). However, in 2004, the state of California passed a one-year window for victims to seek redress in civil courts. It was challenged several times by the church in appellate courts and the courts rightly held that the law is constitutional.
Maryland's highest court has said that only the General Assembly can make it possible for many of these victims to have their day in court. They've waited a long time. The state should give it to them.
MYTH: "The California one year civil window was a disaster...over 600 claims by 1,000 victims."
FACT: The law was an unqualified success because the point of the law was to give victims their day in court and therefore flush out and expose sexual predators. Over 300 predators were exposed.
MYTH: "There is no precedent for the look-back provision."
FACT: California and Minnesota did this years ago when they amended their statue of limitations to help child abuse victims. Delaware enacted a 2 year window in 2007. In the past Maryland found methods to open time for Lead Paint, Tobacco, and Asbestos, etc. Delaware General Assembly has previously done this as well for Vietnam Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. They realized the harm after the statute of limitations had already expired.
MYTH: "The look-back provision violates the due process and equal protection rights contained in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."
FACT: The U.S. Supreme Court has twice rejected this argument about statutes of limitations in civil courts. This is within the statute of limitations context because "the Fourteenth Amendment does not make an act of state legislation void merely because it has some retrospective operation" (holding that it is well within the legislature's prerogative to retroactively revive time-barred claims). The California state courts have upheld their retroactive child abuse statutes as well. In fact, due process for victims of childhood sexual abuse in Maryland is denied by not allowing a civil window.
MYTH: "If this bill passes – frivolous lawsuits may be filed."
FACT: The courts have processes in place to throw out these types of lawsuits. The discovery process will not allow lawsuits to go forward if there is no basis to do so. The bill contains a provision for defendants to recover attorneys' fees in the unlikely case of false claims.
MYTH: "Plaintiffs will be denied their constitutional right to due process. It will be one person's word against another person's word."
FACT: Schools, churches and institutions keep written records of child abuse complaints. They also keep records of their finding and actions of these serious charges. The records can be subpoenaed and brought into evidence. For example in the grand jury investigations of the clergy child abuse scandal in Philadelphia, over 10,000 pages of documents were entered into evidence. This can prove or disprove accusations and help settle "his word against my word" cases.
MYTH: "Flawed or incomplete memories can jeopardize the innocent." "I don’t believe there is such a thing as repressed memory."
FACT: Doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists have recognized repressed memory for many years. The American Psychiatric Association’s textbook of diseases called the DSM4 officially lists repressed memory as a medical fact. Repressed memory and disassociation are recognized just as surely as amnesia, clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition, APA, 1994, is the current reference used by mental health professionals and physicians to diagnose mental disorders.) In order to survive, let alone to get on with a productive life, people often repress memories of harmful childhood events. If they didn’t they would have trouble functioning in society. If the victims allowed themselves to be overwhelmed by the horrific memories of sexual abuse, they would have trouble focusing on the productive goals of their lives. Repressed memory can serve as a coping mechanism for sexual abuse victims. Experts say children who are sexually abused often do not know how to cope with the trauma and some repress memory for decades; others never tell anyone. Some child victims are so young they do not even know the name of what is happening to them. Others have been groomed, threatened and bribed into silence by the perpetrator to the point where secrecy and compartmentalization become a way of life. A federal court in 1988 in a trial in Illinois recognized repressed memory. A law was passed in Illinois recognizing unlocking repressed memory in 2003. It gave victims five years after unlocking memories to sue sexual predators.