January 24, 2006

Protect kids by opening statute of limitations

The Detroit News

Deb Price

T heir fathers sexually abused them. Their families covered it up, warned them not to tell and made them feel dirty, even to blame for what had happened.

As the four middle-aged women told state Rep. Paul Condino, D-Southfield, well into adulthood they continued to feel horrible about themselves and angry that their abusers had never been punished.

"I'm a fairly strong guy, and I had tears in my eyes," Condino recalls of the breakfast meeting a year ago that prompted him to introduce legislation to change Michigan's statute of limitations on civil lawsuits: Currently, abuse victims must sue by age 19. Condino would allow those of any age to sue during a two-year "window" after the bill's passage. After that, victims could sue until age 38.

"I don't know how anyone could listen to those kinds of stories and think that the current system in working," the lawmaker says.

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church doesn't want people to listen to those kinds of stories, some of which would focus yet more attention on abuse by priests. The primary opposition to Condino's much-needed legislative remedy is coming from the Catholic Church. A statement by the Archdiocese of Detroit claims that the current limits on suits by abuse victims have "served our society well in protecting the rights of everyone."

"The Catholic Church's primary concern appears to be how much it might cost them and what further bad PR they'd get, rather than the good that could come for the victims who would finally get a chance to tell what happened to them and have their community say, 'That was wrong,' " says Condino, who was raised Catholic.

Posted by kshaw at January 24, 2006 07:52 AM