Men in My Town

New Jersey passes Statute of Limitations reform in cases of sex crimes committed against children

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on May 13, 2019

208BC2A1-3433-4D00-8789-C274C41C1418Committee Room 4, New Jersey State House. Trenton, New Jersey. May 13, 2019. 

9 years ago, I walked into this room to testify before the State Senate Judiciary Committee in support of legislation being introduced to revise the Statute of Limitations relating to sex crimes committed against children. 

This afternoon I walked into this room surrounded by legislators, legislative staff, social workers, advocates, a constitutional law scholar, a catholic priest, survivors of childhood sex abuse, their parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, children, friends, those they love, and those who love them. Hero’s all. 

We came together to witness and celebrate New Jersey passing into law the nation’s most comprehensive Statute of Limitations reform legislation protecting the rights of children and adult survivors of sexual assault and rape. 

At the age of 14, I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger. I’m a survivor of a stranger-danger abduction and male rape. 

I’m not writing to tell my story, but to spread understanding of why this legislation is so important, to share with you what I’ve learned from my own experience, and what I’ve learned in conversations I’ve had with over 100 adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. 

Children who are victims of sexual abuse often resort to inappropriate behaviors to cope as they suffer through physical, emotional, behavioral and social problems directly related to their abuse. 

Some turn to drugs and alcohol, drop out of school, run away from home, suffer from eating disorders, sleeping disorders, personality disorders, stress, anxiety, depression, disassociation, post-traumatic stress syndrome and life threatening sexually transmitted disease.

Some children have difficulty forming trusting relationships, resort to physical violence, sexual promiscuity and inappropriate and sometimes criminal sexually reactive behavior. 

Some resort to cutting, self-mutilation and in the most extreme cases they’ve murdered their abuser while others contemplate, attempt or commit suicide.

Directly attributable to their sexual abuse, victims often suffer these enduring problems throughout their adolescence and into adulthood, many suffering through decades of silence, never disclosing their abuse.

But why not? Why don’t they disclose?

Sexually abused children and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse remain silent out of misplaced guilt, fear, shame, embarrassment, feelings of being complicit in their abuse, and under threat of violence from their perpetrators, threats of violence directed at the child, their family, their friends, event their pets.  

In time, often in a number of years that far surpass the current statute of limitations, some victims of childhood sexual abuse get the strength to come forward, the strength to speak out, the strength to face the demons that haunt them and the perpetrator of their abuse.

Unfortunately, the amount of time that lapses between the sex crime committed against the child and the date the adult survivor comes forward seeking justice, often exceeds the current statute of limitations and eliminates the possibility of legal civil recourse. 

While the Roman Catholic Church lobbied extensively for over a decade to defeat this legislation, I want to be clear, this law is not anti-Catholic. 

While this law will hold priests accountable for the crimes they’ve committed against children, and the church accountable for the cover-up of those crimes, this legislation holds accountable every criminal who has, or will abuse kids regardless of who they are or where they work; parents, step-parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters, friends of the family, neighbors, school teachers, bus drivers, coaches, doctors, lawyers, politicians, business owners, truck drivers, carpenters, plumbers, construction workers, firemen, cops, bankers, brokers, the guy down the street, the stranger, and yes catholic priests, bishops and cardinals too. This law isn’t anti-Catholic. It’s pro-child. 

The life altering physical, emotional, behavioral and social side effects of sexual abuse last a lifetime and now, today, children and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in New Jersey have until they’re 55 years-old to seek justice for the abuse they suffered. 

To all the people who played a role in getting this legislation written, debated, out of committee, to the floor for a vote, passed and signed into law, thank you. 

To the criminals who’ve ever sexually abused a child in New Jersey, your day of reckoning has come.

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