Hidden Problems with the “Hidden Predator Act”

House Bill 17, also known as the “Hidden Predator Act” has really got my buttons all kinds of pushed. The bill, pre-filed back in December and now making its way to the Judiciary committee, seeks to extend the statute of limitations on sexual assaults, battery, child molestation and things of the like from 5 years to 35 years…from the day victims reach adulthood. It would also allow for a blanket grace period of two years for anyone who previously missed out filing for a civil case under current law giving them from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2017 to take legal action. (Smells like ‘not due process’).

We should note that these atrocities do happen to children and many times, nothing is filed until adulthood whether it be because they cannot tell a parent, they don’t want to tell a parent or they simply don’t understand that what happened to them is wrong. The reason doesn’t matter. Current law allows for victims to come forward for up to 5 years following their 18th birthday.

So, the question becomes: how many years after a sexual assault should someone be allowed by law to file for civil recourse?

To put it plainly, there are a couple of reasons I don’t believe the current law should be changed:

  • Victims of assault are either going to come forward or they aren’t. This is something we know. Many people spend years coping with these things silently and privately and it usually has nothing to do with a statute of limitations for civil recourse.
  • 35 years from the age of 18 is a long time. That’s age 53. And that’s assuming that the assault happened during the late teen years. For those who became victims at an even younger age, memories could be dating back 50 years. No offense to my older friends but depending on whether or not a criminal case produced a conviction, I have a hard time believing the case could be adequately assessed with little to no evidence other than “he said, she said.”
  • Civil damages don’t fix anything. Placing a dollar amount on a life-changing events cheapens what happens to many people. While at age 18 you may have no idea how a victim will manifest the pain and suffering, age 53 gives them far too much leeway of life mistakes and glitches which may or may not be associated with an assault. We would basically open the door for extortion.
  • Allowing victims who were previously not able to come forward because of a statute of limitations to retroactively file a suit during a two-year grace period is not how our justice system is supposed to work.

I ranted about this issue on Facebook and the public responses were interesting, but the private responses were more compelling. I heard from lawyers, who aren’t usually my go-to on these types of things, who urged that this was not a good idea and not good law. I also heard from a few victims. Some who were victimized as children and some as adults. Not one of them was in favor of the legislation.

Altering the statute of limitations in cases like this will not increase the amount of justice served.  Our legal system doesn’t serve as a “catch all” for justice and we shouldn’t expect for legislation to enable to do so.

It’s a sensitive subject and my heart aches for every victim, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out about consequences of legislation. I think the intent is good and pure, but I don’t believe it will accomplish its intentions. 35 years for a statute of limitations is simply too long, and a backdated chance at civil justice isn’t in the best interest of our state. Please oppose, and ask your representatives to oppose, House Bill 17.

46 comments

  1. Lea Thrace says:

    Not seeing a downside to this proposed change. This allows the suit to be filed. Does not mean there is a guarantee of a win. Let the justice system play that out. I think your arguments against are weak at best.

    • Jessica Szilagyi says:

      Because filing a suit can’t have damaging, irreversible ramifications as well?

      I would also like to know what is “weak” about what is opposing a retroactive law.

  2. FranInAtlanta says:

    Retroactive, no. And we all know about “recovered” memories.
    Sad for those who could sue under this law, but our laws are intended to let the innocent escape and I hope they remain so.
    Sexual assault has become a big thing where the rights of the accused are often trampled (Look at what is happening in our colleges and universities.). However, trampling in one area is a disease that is contagious and we need to kill it wherever it is.

  3. Ellynn says:

    Help me to understand this better. If the bill passes as is, how is this going to hurt or indanger someones civil liberty? If memory is an issue, why does murder have no statute of limitation but sexual assaults, battery, and child molestation do and or should?

  4. nadams_30102 says:

    “Victims of assault are either going to come forward or they aren’t” WHAT????!!!!! for some it takes many MANY years to find the courage and to feel safe enough to come forward. I am very jealous that you are able to live in a world where you haven’t had to deal with something like this. I was brought up in the south where we learn to not talk about things we know nothing about. Especially if it could be damaging to others.

  5. nadams_30102 says:

    “Civil damages don’t fix anything” of course there isn’t a monetary amount to make abuse ok. Civil damages does however allow a survivor the ability to pay for therapy (which is very expensive) that will allow them to have a happy, healthy future

  6. help_survivors says:

    I disagree on many levels.

    As a spouse of a survivor and as a foster parent of several children who are survivors, I’ve seen first hand the numerous ways sexual abuse/molestation can manifest itself. This is not always immediate and sometimes not apparent for several years. In my opinion, molesting a child is one of the most deplorable crimes that can be committed because the victim is usually unable to defend themselves or prevent it. Many times they often feel something is wrong with them because this is happening or has happened. My wife’s abusers were never held accountable criminally or in a civil suit. I feel they should have been. I can’t count the number of counseling and/or other medical issues that could have been attributed to the abuse. I’m not saying a victim should have carte blanch to have every physical or mental concern be civilly punishable, but much more than the current law allows. I also don’t feel we should do anything which further enables or protects the predators.

  7. FlyFisher says:

    While not a survivor myself, I have been married to one going on 43 years. Any damage to a child should not have any type of statute of limitations; as, from my experience it can take many, many years for the child/adult to heal enough or trust enough to come forward. For many, that can be a life time pursuit. Crimes against a child cannot be severe enough, ever, and should never be forgotten about and the abuser should always be pursued, no matter how long it takes. It has been proven that a abuser can have up to 400 victims. 1 in 4 girls have been abused, 1 in 6 boys are abused and only 1 in 10 will tell. The healing takes time, and placing an age limit on this crime is not right. We must teach our children how to say and yell NO!! Our Doctors must be trained to ask the right questions when examines are given. Teachers should be better trained; and the list goes on and on. Our future has to be protected and allowed to enjoy their childhoods.

  8. Leola Stotts says:

    I know this bill needs to be passed. As a survivor, it took years for me to have the courage, the mental ability and fortitude to “tell” what happened to me all those years before. As a young adult we tend to stuff it and pretend that we are fine. We keep busy with life so that we do not have to dwell on the pain and the hurt and the bitterness and the disappointment of no one intervening. But as we get older, sometimes, the past comes rushing in and it is then that we can begin to process what happened. I was over 50 before I actually began to understand that this was a crime against me and not something of my fault. There should not be a time limit on a crime. Give those who are trying to heal and process their past a voice when they are ready and able to share. The predator will continue to pursue until he/she is stopped.

  9. myvoice says:

    Jessica, I don’t even know where to start! You know so little on this subject that your comments are completely without facts, absolutely insulting to adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and down right cruel for the millions who are so wounded and scarred that they can not even function in this world that you so easily wake up in each morning. For God’s sake shut up and learn more about the facts – from the CDC and many other respected sites that tell us that 1in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually molested BEFORE the age of 18 and also 1 in 10 NEVER tell. Do you want to know why Jennifer? It is because they are molested by someone the KNOW – TRUST nd LOVE!!!! We are trying to work the problem here and you and idiots just like you are trash we have to walk through every day. This serious subject ned serious people. So, Jennifer, listen carefully. We are adult survivors of child sexual abuse and we are sick and tired of being sick and tired! ALL HACKS OFF THE STAGE- If you are not wanting to help us, then shut the hell up and get out of our way!!!!

    • Jessica Szilagyi says:

      While I appreciate the civil and respectful nature of your comment, I find it equally asinine that you would assume who is or isn’t a victim and who has or has not done research.

      Differing opinions should be met with conversation, not cursing, insults and “shut up – I don’t like that.” Just because you think something is a good idea, doesn’t mean everyone else does. And if you were willing to come to the table respectfully, perhaps you would find that there are plenty of people and representatives who are against the bill but willing to meet somewhere on the middle.

      Until then…

      • a_survivor says:

        I guess as victims we are tired of being told not yet , just wait, you will be fine and get over it. I waited for way too many years because I didn’t feel protected by the legal system and was too traumatized by the powers that be! There are victims who are still afraid and too ashamed to fragile to want to take this on. But there are many who are wanting and willing to fight. We are standing up and standing firm. WE WANT THIS BILL PASSED.

  10. cyndis29 says:

    If you are not a victim of sexual abuse you have NO IDEA to what you are speaking about. I am a mom, wife, a friend, and sister in law of victims of sexual abuse. The pain they have gone through DAILY from the trauma of their abuse is something that they deal with. Not in a silent or internal matter, but with real hurts, real consequences, and real trust issues and life long pain. By not changing the law as it is, the people who are the victims of a horrendous act that was forced upon have no voice and are still completely powerless. It can be often the case, that an individual that has been sexually assaulted, cannot speak out because of fear of retaliation by the perpetrator or heaven forbid by the family or people they know. Or perhaps a repressed memory that doesn’t come to light until their 30’s YEARS after the assault has happened. And you’re response to them would be.. “Sorry, you’re window of opportunity has closed.” ? That is a complete and absolute distasteful practice of the law within this state and it needs to be changed.

  11. a_survivor says:

    As a survivor of Child sexual abuse and as a parent of children who are survivors I am appalled that someone would try to block this Bill. Over the last 50 years I couldn’t tell you how much money it cost for therapy for my children and myself. Oh wait, counseling wasn’t available to me because I lived in fear of telling anyone so no one knew I needed help for this issue. Unfortunately, I was abused by more than one predator. My first abuser apparently abused other members of my family and because it wasn’t reported I also became a victim. With the other abuser I was terrorized for years by nightmares and was afraid to tell, because of the powerful person my abuser was, in the community. I lived in fear because he threatened to hurt my family if I told. I was terrorized with a gun and shown what damage the gun would do to me and my brothers if we told. Because of my abuse I was introduced to adult issues and continued in behaviors I shouldn’t have been aware of at a very young age. How dare someone who has never had to fight this battle on a daily basis tell anyone to vote against this. Unfortunately, these atrocities happen every day. And the abusers get away with this everyday. I didn’t file charges because of fear. I didn’t know how my family would handle it. I was afraid of being blamed. I was afraid!!!!!!! That fear followed me through my adult life into my relationships.
    Regarding the question how many years….as many as it takes. I didn’t start dealing with my abuse until I was in my 30’s but only personally. I didn’t report to the authorities.
    You are right, victims are going to come forward or not! Duh!!!! Keep making it difficult for them to come forward and they won’t. You know who wins….. the predator! Predators get away with this crime when there is evidence. They make the victim look bad, or they are too young to testify, or ….or…or! A monetary award might help the victims start the healing process sooner than later. Not having to be in therapy for 30 -40 – 50 years or longer would be wonderful. Shame on the system and laws that let the predators get away with these crimes. Your mention of extortion is backwards…the only extortion occurring is happening to the victims. Because of my fears and uncertainty, my abusers never suffered any consequences for what they did to me. I stayed quiet for too long. Our justice system needs to stop hiding behind legal rhetoric and truly take this bill seriously for the benefit of the victims. I have children who are survivors as well and I refuse to make them wait until they are 30 or 40 to deal with their abuse. I stand with them and for them and will fight for them until they find the strength to fight for themselves.. One of my children was able to testify and sent 3 abusers to prison for their crimes. My other child was 3 when she disclosed what happened to her. Her abuser never did any prison time. He was walking the streets living life to the fullest. My daughter’s were traumatized, violated and abused… who is going to fight for their rights and safety. Why are we protecting these criminals? I ask for you to vote YES to HB17.

    • Jessica Szilagyi says:

      With all due respect, the legal system is not what will empower someone to come forward or not. You noted that you didn’t seek counseling because of the fear of telling people. The law won’t change that. We are talking about civil recourse.
      And Again, it’s asinine to assume who has and has not dealt with these things.

    • a_survivor,

      Your guilt of not personally protecting your child is causing you to flare up against this bill. “Shame on the system and laws that let the predators get away with these crimes.” …and shame on the parents too. HOW.the.eff does a 3yo get out your sight long enough to be abused without it being your husband? And HOW.the.eff can a woman be married to a man without her intuition saying, “Something’s not right. Get.away.from my child.”

      What happened to you is despicable. And on behalf of all decent humans, I’m sorry that an adult didn’t protect you when you were you and most vulnerable. Yes, you’ll have many years of work to even begin to heal and mend those relationships. But, YOU’VE got to be that protection for your children though… not a flimsy bill that’s being debated on a blog under an anonymous name.

      This bill will not silence anyone’s demons. You have to shut them up yourself.

  12. JMarie says:

    This proposed change strips away some of the protection given rapists and pedophiles under the current law. This change takes away the time when the law tells the rapist, OK you get a free pass. We don’t care what you did or who you hurt. It’s just too much trouble to listen to the survivors. To me it seems those against giving survivors the time they need to tell what happened to them are echoing the rapists — Don’t tell, don’t you ever tell.

  13. Look here – I’m all about righting the wrongs and ferreting out abusers.

    But how am I supposed to do that when I can’t even articulate what this bill does, does not do, and how it applies outside of those who are victims?

    Why is 53 years THE age? Why aren’t there provisions for protecting vigilantes?

    How in the hell does this bill Empower victims, if the burden of proof, social norms, science behind healing, therapy, and the nature of slimy abusers isnt changed?

    Why this specifc bill. In this form? Because we need SOMETHING? I’m not trying to marginalized your pain – I need you to tell me how this bill gives me the tools to stand tall for the abused.

  14. Will Durant says:

    We already have too many laws done with good intentions that have resulted in unintended consequences. Yes, harming a child is at the top of the list of the most heinous acts a person can do. Just being accused of doing so carries a stigma that is almost impossible to remove, even when the accused is proven innocent. I seriously doubt you could find a divorce attorney who has not seen false accusations of abuse being used as a tool. How can a person who might be falsely accused supposed to prove their innocence 35 years or more after the fact? Just because the crime is so terrible doesn’t mean we should throw out innocent until proven guilty.

  15. Dave Bearse says:

    The system is intended to biased, and rightfully so, to value not convicting and penalizing the innocent at the expense of some guilty avoiding justice.

    I’m in the camp that 35 years is too long.

  16. Leola Stotts says:

    In response to those who do not really know what this bill is all about;

    1. This bill will provide a meaningful and necessary 30 year extension to the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims, and would essentially give victims up to age 53 to file a claim in civil court. This action will allow the halls of justice to open for current victims and allow them the time they need to seek the justice that they deserve. The current law continues to favor the perpetrator and not the victim of child sexual abuse, but with the proposed reform, child sexual predators will have a difficult time hiding in Georgia. As a result, the priority will be to extend real justice to victims instead of enabling monsters to continue to prey on society’s most vulnerable individuals.

    2. Anticipated legislation would also allow for a retroactive “window” that would provide a two-year time frame for sexual abuse victims, whose civil claims were blocked by the statute of limitations in the past, to file a case against their perpetrator.

    3. Additionally, impending legislation would amend current Georgia law to allow victims, or their legal guardians, to access police and other investigation records. Under current Georgia law, a child sex abuse victim may only bring action against his or her abuser up to five years, after the victim turns 18 years old. Current law also bars the victim or their guardian from accessing police and other investigation records, in which the victim is the subject of a reported child sexual abuse investigation.

    • Yay – Discourse!

      If you could clarify a few things:

      1. …”time they need to seek the justice that they deserve”
      — I don’t understand how justice is served in a drawn out civil proceeding. How is this justice vs. criminal?
      — If you cap the age, isn’t that leaving room for predators to hide? WHy is 53 the best age here? Does something happen at 53? Is it because 60 is too old to be considered a child? Does it sound good?
      — Is the current statute 5 years? 18 + 5 ? If that’s the case, then why not 40?

      2. …”blocked by the statute of limitations in the past”
      — Are these cases taht were on going, but did not reach a civil judgement in time?
      — Are these people who have realized they were abused or were able to find their abuser after the SOL ended?
      — Does this apply to criminal charges as well?

      3. I like opening up the investigation records – does that change

      4. How long does it usually take to go from “bringing action” to closure / judgement? Wouldn’t it make sense to base SOL on when the “action” was brought, not when the abuse occurred?

      • tmccarley says:

        1. As far as I’m concerned, there should be NO statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. We, the survivors, know that healing takes time and cannot be defined to a certain number of years or age,

        2. I am only looking for criminal charges. I don’t want anything from my abuser, except that he be found guilty of his crimes and suffers the consequences.

        3. I should be able to access any police and investigation records that pertain to me and my abuser.

        4. Again, I think there should be NO statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Sometimes the act of bringing action can lead to closure. At least then, there is peace that your abuser will not abuse another.

      • Leola Stotts says:

        1. . . The median age of disclosure and the time when some is ready to face their perpetrator in a court of law are two different things. The median age of disclosure of child sexual abuse is 40 but then allowing time to go to court is 53. Yes capping the age does leave room for predators to hide and yes it does cut victims out of the opportunity for justice. I understand that Representative Spencer tried to remove the statute of limitations entirely last year and failed, now he is negotiating at 35 years to give some meaningful length of time for survivors to seek justice. Justice is never served and you can never restore a childhood. Criminal prosecution is rare with only 4% of cases so civil prosecution is the only option for justice. Justice is served in a civil case to expose the perpetrator and to compensate the victim for the immense physical and mental healthcare cost and other damages to their life. Criminal proceedings and civil proceedings length depend on case.

        2.This does not apply to criminal charges, just civil. They are blocked because they can NEVER file charges because the criminal statute is only 5 years. These are people who are healed and able to face the grueling and emotional trauma of a court trial when they have reached a level of healing and maturity.

        3. Yes they are currently closed to ANY child victim that is subject to an investigation. Records currently sealed are open to them as an adult so they can be used as evidence in civil action.

        4.No the SOL is ALWAYS based on when the abuse took place.

        Code Section 17-3-1, 2, 2.1 Felonies Forcible rape: 15 yrs.; Murder: none; crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment: 7 yrs.; others: 4 yrs.; crimes against victims under 14: 18 yrs.; for victims under 16 yrs. of age of offenses such as rape, sodomy, incest, and child molestation (occurring after 7/1/92), the statute will run upon the victim turning 16 or when the violation is reported, whichever occurs earlier. If DNA evidence establishes identity of accused in armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery: none Misdemeanors 2 yrs. Acts During Which Statute Does Not Run – See more at: http://statelaws.findlaw.com/georgia-law/georgia-criminal-statute-of-limitations-laws.html#sthash.BPzf5iJZ.dpuf

        Sadly for a survivor to prosecute criminally they must have DNA Evidence for it to be brought at the latest 34 years old. There is rarely – a rape kit or preserved DNA evidence.

        The brutal sexual abuse and rape of a child truly should be treated with severity. When this civil SOL is extended it will also have an impact on preventing CSA because predators will be exposed. Predators on average have 117 victims, serial molesters, 400. Survivors want more than ANYTHING to stop it from happening to another child and society needs to help them heal so they can pursue action again their perpetrator

  17. christyfreeland says:

    I respectfully disagree with you Jessica. I believe sexual abuse and sexual assault, especially to a child, should have no statute of limitations either criminally or civilly. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I can tell you at age 37, this still affects me today. It will always be a part of who I am. It changed me forever. The abuse started when I was 9 years old. 9, think about that. All of you who have children or even if you don’t, remember when you were 9. Imagine someone you loved & trusted taking away one of the most precious pieces of yourself you can never get back.

    The abuse lasted until I was 15. At that point, I just wanted to get away from him. Be done. I refused to prosecute him and put myself through that. I wasn’t strong enough. And I was also afraid of being responsible for breaking up a family (one of the MANY threats he manipulated me with during the abuse). Children are groomed & manipulated to believe the lies these abusers speak. So just because the abuse is over, doesn’t mean that the survivor is without the years of what basically boils down to control from their abuser. That control is operated by fear & intimidation, long after the abuse ends. As a matter of fact, I’m terrified to even speak up today. I’m afraid of this man and what he is capable of. But I refuse to live in fear any longer.

    As it stands, 23 is the end of the statute. At age 23, I was so deep in a downward spiral and depression, there would have been no way for me to have the strength & state of mind to accomplish prosecuting my abuser. I couldn’t even function in my life, let alone prosecute or face the man who completely tore my life apart. It wasn’t until I was 27 years old that I sought counseling to start to heal from all of this.

    Unfortunately, in the last few months, I found out this man also abused someone very close to me and there are suspicions he’s been inappropriate with younger family members. She’s just now had the strength to come forward at close to 30. But guess what, her SOL has passed as well.

    So what can I do today? How can I warn others about this person? How can I speak out now that I have the strength to do so? How do I keep any future children safe from what he is capable of? There is absolutely no legal recourse because my SOL is over.

    The funny thing is, I’m not even interested in money. My goal is to protect any and every child I possibly can from this happening. Speaking up & shedding light on this dark, deep, terrible secret is what will make a difference. The more it is exposed, the less power he will have. I believe that HB 17 would give me a voice to do this.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my story.

  18. redloh02 says:

    Jessica, my goodness, I was surprised as I read the information that you posted. I am the mother of a survivor, and first of all you are correct, there is no dollar amount that can be put on the horrific suffering that individuals of child sexual abuse have incurred. However, the legal system has left us with no criminal recourse in this matter. Until you have experienced this type of abuse, or have a friend or loved one that has been through this we should speak carefully to this matter.

    I cannot over emphasize the importance of this bill, to expose these perpetrators, so they will not be allowed to continue this abuse towards children.

    Let me be clear, for my son, this was not about suddenly recalling some horrific memory. Quite the opposite, it took years to process what had happened to him, then he tried his best to forget, then came to the complete realization that this person had broken the law, and should be held accountable, only to find out nothing could be done.

    The main goal from my standpoint is the protection of other children, and having the right to speak openly about this. Today this question came to mind. “When did doing the right thing, become the wrong thing to do?”

  19. tmccarley says:

    Jessica. I hope you read my letter that I wrote to the Office of the Governor of Georgia and maybe you will understand why this law so desperately needs to be changed. I welcome your comments

    January 2, 2015
    Dear Reader,
    I am writing this letter in regards to the current statute of limitations for child molestation
    and sexual abuse. The story I am about to tell you is my own story. It has not been
    sensationalized and is true to the best of my memories, thus far. I ask that you read this with an
    open mind and open heart that it might lead to an opening of the eyes and a motion to abolish
    these statutes of limitations.
    I was born, Tina Marie Dutton, in April 1971, in Carrollton, Georgia. My mother and
    father were a young, poor working class couple. I was raised along with my brother in Rockmart,
    Georgia. My memories of my father in that house are riddled with abuse and neglect. He was a
    truck driver and often took speed to stay awake for long trips. He was also an alcoholic. When he
    was home and coming down from the speed, he would beat me and my brother with a belt or his
    hands. I remember many times taking a beating for my brother or hiding in the closet and crying
    at the sounds of my brother’s beatings. There were also many times that my father would not
    come home, instead taking the money and disappearing for days at a time to get drunk, do drugs,
    or sleep around with other women. I remember several occasions when my mom would load me
    and my brother into the car to search for him and get money for food. My mom worked at a
    nursing home and did the best she could to see that we were without need. Not only was my
    father unfaithful to my mother, he was also verbally and emotionally abusive toward her. I found
    out this past year, that on one occasion while my brother and I were at school, he held a gun to
    her head while in a drunken rage.
    Around the age of 10, my parents decided to get a divorce. I was actually happy about
    this decision. As far as I was concerned, we would no longer be walking on eggshells when he
    was home, or be bundled up for late night car rides to search for him when he wasn’t home.
    Little did I know that my nightmare was about to begin.
    My father was living in a dilapidated trailer at the back of a family friend’s property. The
    trailer had no utilities. We used a lantern for light and a propane heater for heat. This is where we
    had our bi-monthly visits with our father and where I would have my first sexual encounter at the
    age of 11. We would spend the days at the house of the family friends and then make our way up
    the hill to the trailer to spend the nights with our father. One night in November, my father called

  20. Ellen Mauzy says:

    Change is a frightening thing for many of us, leading us to get caught up on minute details rather than the big picture. We must focus on the real value of the change & not let small details direct our decisions on whether or not to support a particular change in its entirety.
    In a recent 50 state survey of civil statute of limitations (SOLs) for child sexual abuse, Georgia was ranked one of the worst states in the country. Clearly short SOLs can be barriers to justice. Murder in Georgia has no SOL because of the crime’s heinous nature. It is my opinion that child sexual abusers & predators are murdering the souls of their victims. How can we help them regain their lives?
    HB17 strives to give survivors of child sexual abuse justice by:
    1. Extending the civil statute of limitations
    2. Opening records currently closed to survivors of investigation evidence gathered when they were a minor.
    3. Providing a two year window clause making it possible for anyone to take action against their perpetrator for a two year time period.
    Let’s not forget that however long ago the sexual abuse took place, statistics tell us that it is highly likely that the abuser continues abusing. Allowing these victims their rights when they have come to understand them and gained the strength and self-confidence to seek justice could potentially save MANY other children from becoming victims themselves. Isn’t saving our children a huge priority? Money is certainly not the main goal of HB17.
    Our country’s premise that every person (man, woman, child) be entitled “to certain unalienable rights” will be partially restored by the passage of this bill. It is our responsibility as citizens to support the protection of these rights.
    I SUPPORT THE GEORGIA HIDDEN PREDATOR ACT (HB 17)! I ask that you please contact your representatives and let them know you are in support of this bill.
    (Many important statistics have been noted in previous messages on the blog. In the interest of time, I’ll not repeat them, but ask that if you still do not understand the importance that you refer back to them. If you still have questions about HB17, I suggest you go online and read the bill.)

  21. analogkid says:

    Whenever I see 10+ brand new screen names appear on any thread outraged at the original poster, it’s a clear sign that some interest group sent out an email blast to its members to invade Peach Pundit.

    So, to the new folks: (1) Welcome to PP, however long you stay. (2) Tone down the outrage. This isn’t the AJC. You can actually change minds here. (3) Aim for a more reasonable goal. Ten years? Let’s talk. Thirty-five? Not so much.

    • Ellen Mauzy says:

      I thought this was an open dialog blog in which case you’d be looking for the publics opinion. Also, I’ve only seen one comment that showed outraged at the original poster. All others, whether new to this blog or not, has exhibited any outrage. I would think that would be expected on a blog such as this. All other comments appear to be sharing good information. BYW, just curious where your ten year idea comes from. Is there some basis for that? If so, let’s talk.
      Thanks.

      • analogkid says:

        I am not unsympathetic to your cause. In fact, one of my closest childhood friends is a survivor. The monster that abused her is rotting behind bars where he belongs.

        With that said, I have some serious concerns with the 35 year statute of limitations. The first is that we are talking about civil cases, not criminal. In fact, there is no statute of limitations for aggravated child molestation, as long as there is DNA evidence (see O.C.G.A. § 17-3-1). DNA is, however, hard to come by in these situations, so I would fully support loosening this restriction in criminal law to allow survivors to present whatever evidence they have to law enforcement at any time, ever, in order to charge (and ultimately prosecute) child molesters if the evidence supports it. Some of the commenters above said they weren’t interested in money, they just wanted the bad guys stopped. If that is the case, then why not improve the criminal code instead?

        The second issue is that, near as I can tell, this bill would give Georgia one of the top five most liberal statutes of limitations for civil suits (for a comparison of other states’ statutes of limitations, take a look at this link: http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/state-civil-statutes-of-limitations-in-child-sexua.aspx). That said, I also support extending the statute of limitations for civil cases also, as I agree that few survivors between the age of 18 and 23 are ready and able to sue the alleged offender. I mentioned 10 years in my initial comment, because I think that could have been passed by the legislature without anyone batting an eye. Incremental change is also smart policymaking.

        I’ll leave it there for now.

    • tmccarley says:

      Apparently you didn’t take the time to read my letter. I have no rage and my aim is to change minds and protect those that have not yet found their voice. How can you justify 10 years? How can you justify 35 years? Read my letter and then we can talk.

    • tmccarley says:

      I am an active supporter of the Hidden Predator Act. I found this blog when I googled “Hidden Predator Act”. How exactly did I invade Peach Pundit? Is Google one of those “interest groups” that you referred to?

      • Ellynn says:

        Hello, and welcome.

        For a little explanation – in the past, interest groups have taken to the page of an issue and submitted comments that have been along the lines of ‘you’re wrong’ , ‘you’re an idiot’, and sometimes some are very personal attacks. Some of the past comments were along the lines of ‘you need to do this’, ‘we don’t care about your opinion’ or ‘why are you asking questions’. Basically the “shut up and just do it” type of commentary or the ‘cut and paste other peoples opinions/papers/writings here to prove you know nothing and we know it all, thus we are superior” style of discussion. We get a little protective (aka denfensive) sometimes because of this. To be fair, I’m not seeing that level of what has been done before -YET.

        What most of the people looking at and commenting here are asking is based on the legalities of the bill. We are not without empathy and some cases true symphony and understanding of what happened to the people and families involved (I say this as a relative of survivor who struggles still and also of a convicted certified sociopathic monster – although they are not involved in the same case). Personal statements are heartbreaking to hear and read (yes I read yours). Based on our legal system – even a monster is allowed legal rights until found guilty in a court of law and striped of them. It was Adams that said something along the lines about it being better that 10 guilty men go free, then one innocent one be jailed… something like that. It’s not allows fair to true victims, but is what we have to work around.

        Explain to us how this law would benefit the survivors and yet still work within the civil liberties of an un-convicted assumed innocent monster (who still has legal rights, whether we like it or not). Why are we trying to alter civil law instead of criminal law? What areas of agreement can be found, what point of comprise is palatable?

        We have some very good lawyers here. (I’m not one of the lawyers.) We have current and pass members of the house/senate who comment and/or read these pages. We have political junkies and lobby types (I’m not any of those either). The majority of us listen and reason well. Most of us are detail wonks. Some of the comments above have been very good explanations of how it legally works. Go with that. Discussion changes minds here.

        • J C says:

          Ellynn, Thank you for your post above. Survivors may be the most vocal component, but this legislation has legs because of the intense preparation and examination that has proceeded us to this point. As a survivor, I fight the urge to echo the emotional sentiment in the comments, but I know, I must welcome your questions. Discourse to address everything surrounding this issue belongs right here, amongst citizens. Unfortunately, too often, this discourse happens between legislators and special interest lobbyists behind the scenes at the Capitol. Similarly, allegations of sexual abuse and judgement of guilt or innocence of an alleged perpetrator belongs in a court of law. Unfortunately, too often, citizens are convicted in the court of public opinion. When that happens, everyone loses. Simply, the HPA of GA is about access to a court of law. If we disagree, so be it, but at the very least we can both be educated on a new perspective. Additionally, I feel compelled to address what may be perceived as the “zealous victim/survivor,” responses and emotion surrounding this issue. There will be rhetoric, emotion, and seemingly irrational intensity surrounding the HPA of GA. Many will leave no room for this type of discourse, many will assert that any questioning of this legislation is a personal attack, many will associate any disagreement with a desire to protect pedophiles. I respectfully ask that when we see such, you consider that what you are observing is in fact, the manifestations of the abuse that adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse have endured. Many victims suffered in silence and had the courthouse doors slammed shut when they were finally ready to disclose publicly. Very often these disclosures are later in life and are motivated by a desire to protect children that will likely become victims of the perpetrator in the future.

          In regards to your direct questions above:

          Why are we trying to alter civil law instead of criminal law?

          Legislators made progress with criminal SOL’s that were changed in 2012. Much of the change around the country happened at that time in response to the Sandusky Case and the public becoming more educated on the severe effects of childhood sexual abuse. The laws benefitted the perpetrator. As the pathology of abuse became better understood, it was realized that many perpetrators were avoiding criminal prosecution simply because when victims came forward, the SOL had run. That being said, the SOL changes in criminal law ONLY apply from 2012 going forward. Whilst the “survivor” side of me thinks that we should be able to go back and prosecute, the reality is, it is unconstitutional to retroactively apply criminal law. Begrudgingly, because I am a survivor, I understand this and agree with the principal. Our forefathers got it right for a plethora of reasons. Thus in response to your questions, the Criminal SOL’s are moving in the right direction. The key point here is that ANY victim that was molested prior to 2012 and is over the age of 23/25 can not face their accuser in a court of law in Georgia. So, (hypothetically) if three women aged 26-46 walk into a police station and say they found each other in a rape support group and believe they were all brutally raped between the ages of 12-16 by the same well respected man in their town. They submit to forensic interviews and law enforcement deem them credible. The detective questions the alleged perpetrator, he admits to raping them. He breaks down in tears acknowledging his twisted predatory behavior. The detective presents his open and shut case to the DA, and the DA then will be forced to say. There is NOTHING he/she can do. The SOL has run. If we follow the national statistics, the numbers of these types of survivors is staggering. The women coming forward are determined to stop this monster from hurting other children. They FOIA the GBI and/or local law enforcement. At least if they releases the recorded audio of his confession contained int the investigative file, people will know about this monster. They get a letter stating that due to GA Law, unfortunately, she can not have access to the investigative file or any portion thereof. As a last ditch effort they consult a civil attorney who is forced to tell them, they have NO case, the civil SOL has run as well. Now, this admitted child rapist has realized that he is FREE. No one will ever even know he admitted to this heinous act. In the face of losing his well respected position in the community, he begins trashing the victims. It’s easy, many have made poor life choices, multiple sexual partners, battles issues with alcohol and addiction. Several have had encounters with law enforcement. They are no match for him. They shrink back to old familiar behaviors typical of victims and descend further down the spiral, and he is free to continue to perpetrate abuse. Except now, he’s more confident. The community may wonder, but the other victims (statistics tell us there most certainly are more) know better than to speak out. They’ve been shown what happens when these 3 women came forward. If you’ve stuck with me to this point, this is how the Hidden Predator Act could benefit survivors and each and every child in GA. If the HPA makes it, They could file a civil claim, their attorneys could file a motion for release of the GBI file to be used in the case, and she could have her day in court. Mind you, he is innocent until proven guilty and the burden of proof in any case would still have to be satisfied. The HPA simply opens the courthouse doors to the survivors. Criminal Justice can never be possible, but a Civil Judgement would serve several purposes. First, if a judgement was made, they could use those resources for the lifelong mental health treatment that survivors require (more than likely taking the burden off of the state). Second, and for me MOST important and I feel MOST empowering to the victim, the public will know that this man is a perpetrator. Hopefully, with that judgement, it will encourage other victims to come forward, and chances are, one of them will be within the Criminal SOL. BAM, now he’s facing prison and can be kept from harming any more children (if found guilty of course). I know that the above is hypothetical, but the data tells us it is far more common than we think. How can the integral part of our justice system, Innocent until Proven Guilty, even be applied if the victims do not have access to a court of law? The age old argument to this is “What about someone falsely accused,” they could be ruined forever. First, false accusations of sexual abuse are far less than almost every other crime, and the person making false allegations would be subject to criminal prosecution for doing so. This code already exists.

          Some may attempt to argue that the retroactive revival of expired SOLs is unconstitutional, but it is not under Georgia case law. Vaughn v. Vulcan Materials Co., 465 S.E.2d 661, 662 (Ga. 1996) (“There is no vested right in a statute of limitations and a legislature may revive a claim which would have been barred by a previous limitations period by enacting a new statute of limitations, without violating our constitutional prohibition against retroactive laws.”)

          I hope this addresses your concerns regarding the HPA, furthermore, I hope that after all of your concerns and questions are answered, you will become inspired to advocate for the Hidden Predator Act. We need many more voices, most importantly, as with any legislation, it should represent the constituency.

      • analogkid says:

        Hi tmccarley. I meant to respond to you directly earlier also but got distracted with work duties.

        Ellynn did a very nice job explaining the way we operate around here and also giving me cover for my gruffness (thanks Ellynn!). I will say that the tone and content of some of the comments above rubbed me the wrong way by making assumptions about both Jessica’s motives in opposing the bill and her own personal experiences. None of those comments were written by you (or Ellen Mauzy above for that matter) however.

        I wanted to say that I did read your letter (twice actually) and will restate that I am sympathetic to your cause. I will not repeat the arguments I raised above but will refer you to that comment.

        Thanks and, again, welcome to PP.

        • tmccarley says:

          Thank you Ellyn and analogkid for your response. I would just like it to be known that, in my opinion, any step towards changing the statute of limitations is a step in the right direction.
          All I, and other survivor’s, really want is for our abuser to be held accountable for their crimes against us and to suffer the consequences. We have had to carry the burden that our abusers put on our shoulders for so long and we’re tired of it. We live with the guilt every day, that our silence could have led to the abuse of another child. I just want to be able to stand in a courtroom and say it out loud. I don’t care about civil damages. I just want the world to know who he is and what he is capable of.

  22. Ellen Mauzy says:

    Thank you Ellynn & analogkid. I appreciate your comments & explanations but must admit I’m still not clear about the purpose of this blog. I certainly understand anyone not being receptive of harsh comments & personal assaults, but really, I’ve just seen one such comment & I would allow for some of that knowing that this is such a delicate issue & some people are still dealing with enormous turmoil in their lives as a result of child sexual molestation. I’ve seen some very informative comments here explaining how HB17 would benefit survivors. I’ve also seen comments from some that clearly aren’t even addressing the issue at all. Please forgive my ignorance, but could you please explain the purpose of this blog & how you intend to use the information presented here? If we can change your minds, how will you help us? I don’t want to be wasting time debating an issue unless it has to do with getting support for this very important bill. Everyone I talk with about HB17 is stunned that the current bill is in place & wonder why we are just now addressing this wrong.

    • analogkid says:

      I guess I should first clarify that I am not in any way affiliated with Peach Pundit. I am just a guy that visits this website regularly for news and opinion on Georgia politics, and I occasionally post comments here. For more information on the site, I would recommend clicking the “About Peach Pundit” link at the top of the page. I would further recommend going to the front page (www.peachpundit.com) and reading some of the other stories and the comments that are left by other readers/ members of this community. That will probably give you the best idea of what goes on here (spoiler alert: lots of arguing about politics).

    • Will Durant says:

      “…could you please explain the purpose of this blog & how you intend to use the information presented here?”

      This is a political blog focusing on Georgia politics. There are a few legislators that post and/or comment here, but mostly a bunch of Joe & Jane Schmoes arguing politics. Occasionally you will find some profound statements, mostly, like 99.9% of the content of all internet blogs the comments are as ephemeral as a little boy writing his name in the snow.

    • Ellynn says:

      Let me tell you what I’m doing with this blog post.

      Until I read this post I knew nothing about this bill. It is not on my personal list of causes and interests, so it’s not on my radar. I’m on the east coast of the state so I don’t deal in the bubble of the dome and the shadows of the many office buildings along the MLK corridor and the lobbyists who love them. This bill has no coverage in the news or papers that I can see in my area. So for me the purpose of following a blog like this is getting to know what is going on, and how the winds are blowing. You can figure that out by who posts what in their ‘front page’ stories, the topics of whoever is writing the week day Morning Reads and by what the cast of daily readers place in their comments . You follow along enough, you will know what I mean.

      I spent a good amount of time Wednesday night reading up on this bill. Both sides. My comments from Thursday generated an interesting response from JC (and you). I can weigh that along with areas of agreement/concern I have with other comments I have read in the last 48 hours. I am also planning on asking my contact at the local women’s shelter I do some life skills work with her opinion. Plus I have a standing once a month dinner date with an old flame, ‘the defense lawyer’ tomorrow. Since I hate the lawyers current girl friend, I have to find something else to talk about…

      I was already scheduled to see my Sen. rep at a ‘issue’ day event this Wednesday. Besides picking his brain on a whole list of things I deal with in my professional life (the ‘issue’), this is getting added to the list of ‘what is your position’ I had planned on asking his staff. I can then follow up on why, and what would he like changed in the bill (aka palatable comprise). If I know how he intends to vote, my next course would be either stating my opinion in writing to his office (be it yea or nay) or doing nothing – either because I know he’s headed in the way I find acceptable, or because regardless of my feelings on it, I’m not going to change his mind.

      And finally there is the telephone affect. I had lunch with a co-worker yesterday and he asked me what I did Wednesday night. I told him. Until then, I did not know his late grandmother was a 12 year old victim and his over 60 half uncle was the result. He also never heard of your bill. He asked me to email him some of the info I read Wednesday night.

      Now most of the Joe and Josephine Schmucks here will tell you I’m a bit of an exception and an oddity here. Most people are not going to give this post another thought. But there are some political junkies who will dwell on this or keep it in the back of their minds. And the die-hards will take action. Just remember you might not always agree with what we end up doing.

      As to whether this is a waste of your time, well only you really know that.

      • saltycracker says:

        Ellynn,
        Tip of the hat for you. Child predators are among the most despicable humans and no punishment is adequate. My close knowledge of two events: one, years later ended in reconcilation but I can’t and will not forgive and forget, at least it was not that close. The other involved a fellow that was a total ego jerk that one female family member, with issues, decided her only logical explanation of her issues was sexual abuse by him when very young. The subject was so oft discussed over the years by the women that it was easier to believe it than debate it. Time does make myth a reality. It’s a very cold and confusing trail to sort things out decades later but it would be hard to deny a person the opportunity,

  23. analogkid says:

    Just to follow up on my comment from yesterday about a group probably sending out an email blast… I found this post on the “Hidden Predator Act of Georgia” Facebook page from February 3 at 2:55 PM:

    Obviously this person is speaking out of ignorance on the issue of child sexual abuse cases. It is obvious that she has no experience with child sexual abuse, the profound wounding, the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on medical and mental healthcare, the denial of disclosures, the delayed disclosure well into adulthood to to fear and shame, and the lack of justice for survivors in either criminal or civil actions. Please post your comment on her BLOG – not on this facebook link but her blog – she needs to hear from you!

  24. J C says:

    Jessica,

    In response:

    Jessica Writes “Victims of assault are either going to come forward or they aren’t. This is something we know. Many people spend years coping with these things silently and privately and it usually has nothing to do with a statute of limitations for civil recourse.”

    There are countless studies regarding factors relating to disclosure of sexual abuse. Your statement of “Victims of assault are either going to come forward or they aren’t,” is like saying the GOP is either going to win or it’s not. “Findings show that disclosure is multiply determined by a complex interplay of factors related to child characteristics, family environment, community influences, and cultural and societal attitudes. An ecological analysis is offered to understand these complexities. Unless barriers to disclosure are eradicated, negative effects of CSA can persist manifesting in serious mental health issues.” Alaggia 2009 The current Civil Laws in GA are a barrier to disclosure. Victims know that they do not have access to a court of law.

    Jessica Writes: 35 years from the age of 18 is a long time. That’s age 53. And that’s assuming that the assault happened during the late teen years. For those who became victims at an even younger age, memories could be dating back 50 years. No offense to my older friends but depending on whether or not a criminal case produced a conviction, I have a hard time believing the case could be adequately assessed with little to no evidence other than “he said, she said.”

    35 minutes in line at the grocery store is a long time. Again, I’m not understanding how you are qualifying “a long time.” In regards to survivors memories of childhood sexual abuse: Alexander et al. (2005) examined adults’ memories of child sexual abuse (CSA) 12 to 21 years after the abuse ended. Victims who reported CSA as their most traumatic life event and those with greater symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) had particularly accurate memories of their abuse (see also Ghetti et al., 2006). Furthermore, if victims know the courthouse doors are actually open, the likelihood of additional victims coming forward of the same perpetrator are high. Pedophiles don’t stop. Identifying them in a Court of Law, educates the public. In California when similar legislation was passed, 300 previously unknown perpetrators were disclosed to the public through civil litigation. The average perpetrator abuses ~150 children over his lifetime.

    Jessica Writes: Civil damages don’t fix anything. Placing a dollar amount on a life-changing events cheapens what happens to many people. While at age 18 you may have no idea how a victim will manifest the pain and suffering, age 53 gives them far too much leeway of life mistakes and glitches which may or may not be associated with an assault. We would basically open the door for extortion. Allowing victims who were previously not able to come forward because of a statute of limitations to retroactively file a suit during a two-year grace period is not how our justice system is supposed to work.

    “Civil damages don’t fix anything.” Then why do we have a Civil Justice System? People much smarter that myself created our Justice System to serve and protect the citizens of our country. The Hidden Predator Act will do that. First, in successful cases it will take the financial burden of lifelong mental health treatment (often this is in the form of state services) off of the victim or the State of GA and place it where it belongs, with the perpetrator.

    Jessica Writes: Allowing victims who were previously not able to come forward because of a statute of limitations to retroactively file a suit during a two-year grace period is not how our justice system is supposed to work.

    “Some may attempt to argue that the retroactive revival of expired SOLs is unconstitutional, but it is not under Georgia case law. Vaughn v. Vulcan Materials Co., 465 S.E.2d 661, 662 (Ga. 1996) (“There is no vested right in a statute of limitations and a legislature may revive a claim which would have been barred by a previous limitations period by enacting a new statute of limitations, without violating our constitutional prohibition against retroactive laws.”) “The Supreme Court has ruled that civil statutes of limitations are merely a legislative convenience, made by the grace of the various Legislatures, and which may be changed should the Legislature see fit. Thus, a statute of limitations may be extended and suits brought within this now-lengthened period.” (www.sol-reform.com)

    This legislation is needed to protect the children in GA by identifying “Hidden Predators” to the public, provide survivors access to a court of law to face their perpetrator, and to shift the financial burden of mental healthcare from the survivor/state of GA to the perpetrator. Jessica, I hope you will reconsider your position on the Hidden Predator Act. We need the support of citizens like you!

  25. Scarlet Hawk says:

    I wonder aloud, as technology changes and predators are able to evade prosecution and legal process through internet channels: fake Facebook personalities, texting from pre-paid cell phones, and the cutting and pasting of images, how long is too long? It takes a while to build a case, and often in cases of child pornography, once a perpetrator is found, there are many cases that are opened up. This story reminded me of that.

    http://www.brainchildmag.com/2015/02/a-predator-in-the-house/

    It also points out that predators work usually very slowly, so that over time they are trusted companions of children and parents before actually committing an act. This leads me to wonder why our system should be expected to move on so quickly? If it takes years for a predator to commit a crime, should there not also be time enough for the victim to connect the dots?

    Even in the age of relative instant gratification, some things cannot be so. I’m not certain grace periods for prosecution should be expected to be either.

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