A statute of limitations on prosecuting sexual abuse?

There is no disputing that sexual abuse is unacceptable. There is however, room for discussion on how society is to deal with accusations and punishment. Not all situations are equal.

There is a pattern which has evolved over the last twenty years, of women (specifically) coming forward with sexual accusations to bring down a potential political candidate or appointee to high office. This has made it patently clear that there is something seriously wrong with a system which has shown no interest in encouraging these same individuals to seek legal recourse as early as possible. How does it come to pass,  that a woman can live with being a victim of sexual abuse for twenty or thirty years and only decides to report the abuse when she will be:  “on camera,” on the front page of newspapers and social media, and coincidentally –  at the same moment is affecting the political landscape? I am being specific in this example as I do believe that different forms of offenses should rightly have different parameters according to law.

The fact that democratic societies are avoiding facing these serious abuses early-on, encourages major political machines to go looking for a way to bring down a candidate who is not of their choosing. Sexual accusations are the easiest route. This has to stop.It is happening all over the globe…with great success.  It will only end when laws are put into place which are reasonable, respect the rights of the victims, but which also by-force, have certain limitations. Those restrictions will by extension create a sense of order in the otherwise murky area of accusations which can indeed be manufactured at will.

The sexual abuse of children is an extremely sensitive subject as it further damages the victims, often for life.  Even so, if the victims having reached adulthood and independence, were aware that they had a specific window of time according to the law, to report the abuse and hold the perpetrator responsible ( perhaps even a period of  twenty years from the age of majority,)  then there would be a decision to be made one way or the other by the victim.  “Do I or do I not, look for legal recourse?” Any reasonable deadline to begin a legal proceeding against the accused would encourage victims to take witness reports early-on and  look for evidence before it could be lost for eternity. It would likely result in more convictions of the guilty and less prosecutions of the innocent.

Once having decided I wanted to write on this subject,  I took time to speak to some friends who had difficult tales to share.  I suspect that most women (as I cannot speak for the men…), have had challenges dealing with unacceptable sexual situations. Not all are criminal in nature. I myself was attacked when walking our dog in the then-sleepy town of Santa Monica California, more than forty years ago.  My life was threatened but I escaped only emotionally shattered… not physically damaged. It took months to escape the fear of strangers approaching. I had a difficult time the following day in the police station looking at mug shots and trying to identify the perpetrator.  I thought I had the right face, but I was not sure. That was the very next day.  Fast forward  forty years and I can say unequivocally that I would not know the man even if he appeared in front of me as he looked on that rainy evening.  That was a traumatic moment.  I had my “wits about me.”  There was no alcohol or drugs to cloud my perception of the events.  Still, I would have been unable to accuse the perpetrator in a court of law. This is one of the reasons that I am extremely skeptical when women come forward many years later to make accusations. My instinct was to deal with it immediately. Of course there are issues of shame, embarrassment, or social pressures which can cause one to avoid dealing with trauma.

A lovely friend shared her experience with me and explained that when she was a young student, the mores of the time made coming forth against her professor’s abuse of her, absolutely impossible.  It also made sharing her embarrassment with family out of the question.  These are excellent reasons for suppressing the unacceptable. Still, as we age and mature, we continue to have the choice as to whether or not we wish to face our demons. We now live in a century where the discussion of sexua abuse is not a tabu subject , and the expectation of responsibility for one’s actions is at a far higher level than in years past.

The current trend towards “he said”-“she said” is legally untenable. Are we to believe the person who cries the most or who we believe has the most to lose by coming forth?  Lives are being ruined and families are being destroyed over and over again.  The results are the same whether the accusations are truthful or fabricated. The damage could be reduced if the legal system would create realistic time frames for the reporting of such incidents.

Of course, if an individual has been assaulted, harmed, raped, or victimized sexually in the workplace, they must have a right to regress within a predetermined period of time.  For adults having been victimized, I would suggest that they be limited to ten years to come forward to record the assault.  A defined period of time would ensure that one could go on to find further employment or a living situation which would allow their life to move forward.  It also would make it reasonably possible that witnesses might be still be available to give evidence. Whether you agree with my suggestion of ten years, or prefer twenty …really is not the issue.  A limit of a determined amount of time would be of benefit to all involved.

I would suggest that any reporting of abuse against an individual who has just announced that they are running for office should be denied a hearing.

Why should one feel it is more important for the aggrieved victim to come to the public with their accusations only when their accused perpetrator is running for office?  There is something terribly disingenuous about the status quo. It encourages liars and those paid by political machines to do their bidding.  Sincere victims must be encouraged not to wait to expose those who have harmed them. Knowing that a statute of limitations exists- would require a decision of the victim, and would indeed encourage facing “ the uncomfortable. “

No doubt there would need to be exceptions to such a law. Consider for example- a class-action accusation against a group of perpetrators…be they sex slave-traders or those hiding behind the cloak of religious respectability. They must be held to task regardless of the time which has passed. Any laws can have exceptions… and exclusions.

Consider people abused by family members who find holding them to account too painful.  The law is full of exceptions in extra-ordinary situations.

The primary issue which I would like my readers to contemplate, is the repeated pattern of accusations against political candidates when it appears intended to bring an individual down (and often it is someone who was not thought to be so contemptible prior to the candidacy.)

This issue is not only about the victim of the abuse.  It is also about the future of leadership in the free world.  If we want to have elected officials who will have the courage to face public scrutiny, there has to be a limit to the harassment they will face.  Even good men and women will look back on their lives with remorse at moments they would re-script if they could. Let he/she with no indiscretions as far back as their high school and university days… be very proud of themselves indeed.  Any serious misdeeds need to have been addressed in a timely manner.

As with legal problems which arise from bullying, hatred, and calls to violence on the internet…the laws of reporting sexual abuse in democracies are lagging behind the realities of the lives that everyday people face from day to day.

Abusers on all levels must be held to account. It is critical that we all encourage our elected representatives to create an updated framework for our “new world” which will serve us all. The laws of democratic nations now need to be amended to address those expectations with clear, profound and swift change.

The net result could bring forth a new respect for the sexual rights of all individuals and encourage the “ best and brightest”  to once again consider a career in civic leadership.

About the Author
Born in the Washington DC area, Barbara has been a pro Israel activist for over four decades, having had a radio show in Jerusalem called "Barbara Diamond One on One" , doing in depth interviews which aired in Israel and in the UK. She participated in missions to the USSR to meet with Refuseniks, to Ethiopia with a medical team to help the Jewish villages and to China to open up relations prior to China recognizing the State of Israel, She has been pro-active lobbying congress and helping to start a Pro Israel PAC in Los Angeles. She stays involved through the Jerusalem Press Club attending up to the moment briefings which she would like to share with the readers. Ms. Diamond is the 2018 recipient of the "StandWithUs"-Israel leadership award.
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