Our view: Victims of child sex abuse can pursue justice


Photo courtesy of Wesley Hammer

Sydney Harper, Opinion Editor

President Joe Biden signed the Eliminating Limits to Child Sex Abuse Victims Act into federal law on Sept. 16. This act revises the statute of limitations on report times for sexual abuse crimes occurring to minors. 

Before the signing of the bill, people could only report crimes  up to 10 years after their 18th birthday, but this time limitation has been removed. 

The existence of this law opens up many possibilities for people who have fallen victim to abusers in the past. More people will be able to come forward and share their stories. Removing the time limit victims have to come forward and report is especially important for young children who lack mobility and financial independence. 

This law helps recognize child sex abuse and reporting time on a federal scale since it wasn’t recognized as widely beforehand.  The law makes it much easier for survivors to report after these crimes occur. By removing the barrier of a report time, survivors of abuse have more of an outlet for help and assistance. 

Many children are also groomed into believing the things happening to them are normal. Although this bill won’t undo what happened to the children, it will allow for some form of reparations. Allowing people to fully realize what happened to them and understand it sometimes takes years. Removing the statute of limitations gives people more room for this, especially since understanding often comes with age. 

One issue with this bill is the extent of the need for evidence. Abuse crimes happening years ago will most likely require significant evidence that can’t always be provided by victims, depending on the length of time between the crime and the report. Unfortunately, the legal system will be more likely to side with the abusers in some cases since there will be a lack of evidence. 

Because children often lack the understanding needed to report crimes against them or understand necessary evidence, education is crucial to ensuring justice. Making sure children understand the process of how to safely report will change lives for victims of child sexual abuse. 

At The News, we believe many crimes of abuse can be considered “right” by parents since forms of punishment can create a gray area. Abuse in some households is referred to as “proper punishment,” so children are unaware of the abuse they are going through and are told it is right. 

This principle of punishment has changed over time, and we now understand methods used by parents years ago are no longer considered appropriate. This recognition of abuse can also have an impact on how cases will be seen. Although judges would most likely have dismissed cases involving some forms of abuse before, we have grown more educated as a society on what constitutes abuse, and therefore can better  handle these situations. 

This new legislation is an excellent start to ensuring justice for survivors of sexual abuse. This step is life-changing for many survivors, so legislators should consider victims of all forms of abuse to bring justice to a greater number of people. We should spend time seeing this as a victory for survivors because they typically are not as uplifted. 

This bill is necessary in the process of healing for so many, but other victims should also have justice for their abuse. Just because a certain amount of time has passed, it doesn’t mean survivors of abuse should be discounted or told they won’t get justice. This bill should allow survivors to be believed and help more people in the long run. 

Overall, the purpose of this bill should be to generate more power for survivors. Leaving the justice of survivors in the hands of abusers only makes problems worse. 

Hopefully, the signing of this bill will encourage survivors of any kind of abuse to come forward and tell their stories. The statute of limitations was discouraging to many.  Now, people may feel empowered and gain the courage to speak up. 

There are many resources for victims of child sexual abuse. For help or assistance, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE).  As a survivor resources exist, especially with the signing of this bill. You are not alone and help is available.