August 22, 2018

CUA Law Professor Mary Leary was quoted in an August 17, 2018, National Catholic Register article discussing law changes to better protect victims of child sexual-abuse.

After PA Grand Jury Report, Will Laws Change to Better Protect Children?

From: National Catholic Register
Date: August 17, 2018
By: Joan Frawley Desmond

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However, Mary Leary, a law professor at The Catholic University of America, took a slightly different view of the report's recommendations, as she underscored the very real "tension" between the statute of limitations, "which exist so that the accused has a chance to build a defense by going to the date and time of the crime and rebuilding what occurred," and the demand for justice for victims following the lifelong trauma of childhood sexual abuse.

"[T]he statute of limitations does serve a legitimate purpose of fairness to those accused of crimes," said Leary. "In the child sexual-abuse context, this principle is in tension with the legitimate claim of victims that this form of victimization is so damaging and unique that children cannot bring themselves to report it until many years after the victimization, and defendants should not benefit from that reality."

The report's recommendations on this matter are surely "controversial," she agreed. But they are designed to "treat child sexual abuse the same as murder, which in most states does not have a statute of limitations.

"As one witness told the grand jury - sexual abuse is 'murder of the soul,' and understood in that context, it should have the same statute of limitations."

The report's authors buttressed their demand for a two-year civil window by arguing that victims who were 30 or older in the 1990s lacked both the information and the time to see that their experience was part of a systemic problem within the Catholic Church that would not come to light until 2002.

"These victims ran out of time to sue before they knew they had a case: The Church was still successfully hiding its complicity," reads the report. "Our proposal would open a limited 'window' offering them a chance, finally, to be heard in court. "

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