Saturday, 26 June 2010

Catholic church fights lifting of sex abuse suit limits

The principle behind a statute of limitations is sound – but it falls down hopelessly in cases of child abuse. In all such cases, most victims simply do not report them to anyone, and when they do, their parents often don;t believe them – or choose not to take the matter any further. Although reporting of abuse in the Church has improved, underreporting was particularly high years ago, when the majority of cases now known took place. Many of those victims said nothing until many years later, as adults. To impose a statute of limitations on such cases is effectively to deny the victims any redress, simply because they were children at the time and did not know any better than to keep quiet. Yet the Catholic Church, in Michigan and elsewhere, continues to fight efforts to extend the time frame applicable under the statute of limitations applicable to child abuse.   
Lansing -- The abuse David Collins suffered as a teen from a Catholic priest in the archdiocese of Detroit confused him for decades. He spiraled into alcohol abuse. He suffered years of depression and post-traumatic stress. His relationships suffered because he had trouble trusting others. Twenty-six years after the abuse, he's confused again.
The church has paid for extensive counseling for Collins, 40, of Livonia. Officials from the Archdiocese of Detroit have met with him and been apologetic and sympathetic, Collins said. But the church also is lobbying to stop legislation that would allow victims like Collins from suing the church.
"They say one thing to me and say something else (to others) depending on the context," Collins said. "It seems somewhat hypocritical."
Victims of abuse by Catholic clergy are expressing dismay at the strong lobbying the church is doing in Lansing to halt an effort to remove Michigan's statute of limitations on sex abuse cases. In Michigan, victims must file criminal or civil complaints by the time they turn 19 -- what some say is an unrealistic limit on kids who often are traumatized for years by the abuse.
The church maintains that removing the statute of limitations could open the floodgates to abuse cases that are a half-century old and could take money away from programs that benefit the poor. But victims such as Collins see the church's actions as another example of the church protecting itself rather than victims.

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