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In Light of Child Abuse -

Stashed in: Ethics

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Most of those accused of the abuse in the Horace Mann case are dead, but under New York State law, if alive they would most likely be safe from justice. The state’s statute of limitations on child abuse is five years from the victim’s 18th birthday. After age 23, the victim has no recourse.

Yet young adults, particularly men, who suffer the aftereffects of abuse are rarely in an emotional state to bring charges. Given what we now know about why it takes victims so long to come forward, the law needs to be changed.

Many people cast a skeptical eye on those who wait so long to reveal instances of child abuse, particularly when it happened to them as teenagers. They assume that accusers are making it up, blaming what were at most minor incidents for their troubles.

But in my decades of experience working with abuse victims, I have found that men spend years putting their emotions in a deep freeze or masking post-traumatic reactions with self-defeating behaviors like compulsive gambling and substance abuse. Eventually, they are forced by internal or external events to find treatment.


But more needs to be done. Every year since 2005, Margaret M. Markey, a New York State assemblywoman, has introduced a bill to extend the statute of limitations for five more years, a modest increase; it would also create a one-year window for adults up to age 53 to bring charges against alleged abusers. The bill has passed the Assembly four times but has consistently been blocked from coming to the floor of the Senate, largely thanks to fierce lobbying by the Roman Catholic Church. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has yet to take a position on the bill.

The stories of abuse at Horace Mann and elsewhere are truly horrifying. But the victims will have done a great service if their actions persuade others to come forward — and the State Legislature to, at long last, set a realistic statute of limitations for going after their abusers.


The Roman Catholic Chruch has a huge credibility problem that's not going away until they do the right thing.

Amazing how an organization that's supposed to offer moral guidance struggles to have exemplary ethics.

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