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Sex Abuse Victims Continue to Capture National Headlines in Oct 2015

Posted on in Criminal Defense

In October 2015, blaring headlines told the latest, sex abuse victims' tales. This time, the victims suffered at the hands of clergy members who, during the commission of the acts, were under the authority of the Twin Cities Archdiocese. More than 40 religious leaders were initially investigated and publicly named in the scandal earlier this year.

Now, the nationally covered case has taken on a whole, new dimension as the charges extend to the archdiocese himself. Although not charged with sexual abuse, the religious institution's figure-head must answer in court to accusations that he was negligent in his duties to protect the sex abuse victims from harm. We should also note that other archdioceses have faced similar charges in the past.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice's statistics, more than half of the sexual abuse cases that occur each year never reach the ears of the authorities. Instead, sex abuse victims choose to keep their pain private or only share it with trusted members of their inner circle. More often than not, clergy members are missing from that inner circle. Also, as in the a fore mentioned cases, sex abuse victims often hold their tongues for decades.

As a consequence, their allegations may be extremely difficult to prosecute. While it is true that DNA remains viable more than 500 years after death, the likelihood that it would have been collected by authorities after the alleged incidents of abuse is slim to none. Of course that's going on the premise that many sexual abuse victims do not report the alleged crimes until years later.

Sexual assault cases that are immediately reported to the authorities obviously have a better chance of being tried successful because of forensic evidence collection and preservation. However, even professional evidence collection and preservation is no guarantee that sexual abuse victims will be able to prove their claims and there is a simple reason this is often a problem.

As The National Center for Victims of Crime's pamphlet, Sexual Assault Kit Testing: What Victims Need to Know, points out, the reason has to do with state statute of limitations and rape kit protocol. There are areas in the country where evidence is not tested and handed over to prosecutors in a suitable manner. Therefore, the statute of limitations may run out, thus leaving sexual abuse victims without the ammunition or legal standing to make their case.

This brings us to another important consideration. Exactly how long do sexual abuse victims have to come forward and make their case? It varies but the National Conference of State Legislatures' website provides an excellent, broad overview of the situation. It shows that in some states, victims have as little as two years to come forward and make their case. In others, there are no prosecutorial time limits. As such, senior citizens may find themselves defending against allegations that stem back 30 to 40 years or more. That obviously, in and of itself, can be problematic for accused perpetrators and sexual abuse victims alike.

To learn more about taking cases like the ones we mentioned to trial, please contact us today.

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