There is no statute of limitations on murder in the state of Pennsylvania. Why is there one for child sex abuse? It’s soul murder. All parents regardless of religion must unite to get this legislation passed. Demand justice for all kids in Pennsylvania. Justice4PAKids.com coming soon.
Our guest blogger shares important information on this crucial legislation. We welcome guest blogs on the impact this legislation would have on revealing any institution’s flaws in child safety in addition to how it would make PA safer and more just for all children.
by a Guest Blogger
There are a couple of bills currently stalled in the House Judiciary Committee of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These bills are proposing changes in the PA Statute of Limitations related to sexual abuse.
House Bill 878 proposes to eliminate the Statute of Limitations in sexual abuse cases involving minors.
House Bill 832 calls for a suspension of the Statute of Limitations for 2 years so that victims of past sexual abuse can file civil charges regardless of when the abuse took place.
A common question associated with revising the statute of limitations in cases of child sex abuse is Why? Why aren’t these cases reported when or soon after they happen? Why are people coming forward twenty and thirty years later with allegations?
There are three issues to consider here. Two of them are emotional and psychological and a third is neurological. All three are important.
The first emotional/ psychological issue is that many offenders who victimize children, warn the children not to tell anyone because:
– no one will believe them.
– the offender will hurt the child and/or members of the child’s family.
Children are easily manipulated because they have no way to access the power and influence of the person making such threats.
The second emotional/ psychological issue is that children have often been disbelieved when they report the sexual abuse to their parents. This crime is so hateful to most adults that we don’t even want to think about it, let alone believe that it could happen to one of our own. THAT VERY RELUCTANCE to think about child sexual abuse is something that abusers have banked on over the years.
If a child is not believed by his/her parents, it is unlikely that he/she will take matters further.
Both of these issues create a very oppressive situation for children—one in which there is no way out except through silence. And because children can be distracted by things that they enjoy, they are capable of putting their tensions out of their minds temporarily. But sexual assault is more than an emotional and psychological trauma.
The third issue is that there are neurological consequences which affect memory.
Memory is a complicated work of the human brain in which many aspects of a episode are represented and stored, so to speak, in different sections of the brain and brought together at recall by a section of the brain called the hippocampus. (Besides episodic memory, there is semantic memory and procedural memory.)
Most recent research points to the hippocampus as a part of the brain very badly affected by trauma and stress. Traumatic memories are a unique class of memory. They are usually triggered unexpectedly and are so filled with emotion that they are hard, if not impossible to put into words. These memories are also fragmented in nature so that some elements of the traumatic episode are remembered (eg, odors, emotions) while others (eg.place, age at the time) are not. The emotional character and the fragmented nature of such memories are naturally confusing. And beyond the effect on episodic memory, after traumatic shock, systems of the brain that function to protect the person experiencing a powerful shock (fight or flight/numbing to pain/ heightened awareness of danger) seem to be over-sensitized to external stimulus, resulting in regular experiences of inexplicable agitation and upset.
To put this in our everyday kind of talk, people who are sexually victimized as children struggle with:
– fragmented memories—scraps of experience that don’t fit into a meaningful context.
– traumatic memories which can trigger panic attacks which are very hard to make sense of.
– extreme sensitivity to stimulus in which brain systems react as if to danger, causing a pattern of episodes of agitation and upset that are difficult to explain.
To Add It Up
burden of confusing and painful memories and extra sensitivity
the probability that as a child, the person was intimidated into silence
or was disbelieved by his/her parents
why these are crimes that take so long to report.
Please support these legislative initiatives by contacting your representative in Harrisburg and requesting that he/she contact Representative Ron Marsico the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to urge him to expedite these bills. (Click here to find your state rep or contact the PA Judiciary Committee via our Resources page.)