Should There Be A Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes?

This is the debate that should be, but isn’t really, happening in Pennsylvania.  The bills are dying on PA Rep. Ron Marsico’s desk.   Bill White, one of the panelists at the November 17th edition of Beerituality, shares one of the reasons in this post.

To my many Catholic friends and readers: please know that this isn’t meant to single out your faith tradition.  God knows this sin is everywhere.  And it’s also important for the public, Catholic or otherwise, to know where local or regional incarnations of the institution, complete with legislative apparatuses, stand on bills like PA HBs 832 and 878. Given what we know about how long it can take to remember abuse, let alone feel confidant about reporting it, statues of limitations for sex crimes without any kind of “window” for adults recalling childhood abuse seem counter-intuitive to my way of thinking.

What do others think?



2 thoughts on “Should There Be A Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes?

  1. I agree with you on the fact that it can take some time to remember suppressed memories. I’m not certain that there is a good answer, however, because the more time that passes between an alleged crime and a criminal proceeding, the more fuzzy the details become.

    So, while I think it’s a great idea to defend the innocent- there’s the matter of how much time, energy, and resources we want to use to pursue a case that will probably not end with a fair verdict (neither for the victim nor the accused).

    I think the main point in pursuing cases like this (especially against high profile persons) is that it sends a message to everyone else- “you can be sure your sin will find you out!” It may take years, but justice will be served.

    I’m not certain of how much of a deterrent that would be for a potential criminal- but it’s a possibility that we should at least recognize.

  2. I agree with Nathan, I think. The purpose of statutes of limitations is to protect the falsely accused. If someone first “remembers” abuse 40 years after it happened, I would be very uncomfortable with putting the alleged abuser in prison, and I fear that the average jury member would not be. Memory is far more fragile and impressionable than we would like to believe.

    If protecting the innocent means that a few horrible crimes go unpunished, I am OK with that. If you want to talk about ways to help victims feel safe in reporting their abusers earlier, I’ll be happy to join you.

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