March 12, 2006

A 'justice gap' for victims of child sex abuse

Boston Globe

By Jetta Bernier and John Mackey | March 12, 2006

THE SEXUAL ABUSE of children has been aptly labeled ''a silent, violent epidemic" by the American Medical Association. While the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has shattered the silence, the truth is that those revelations reflect only part of a broader societal problem.

One in four girls and one in six boys have experienced some form of sexual abuse before age 18, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 80 percent of incidents are never reported to authorities. Massachusetts already recognizes that the nature of these crimes is so egregious and its impact so devastating that sexual offenders are the only class of criminals the state identifies on its website.

Effectively addressing this epidemic will require the active involvement of many sectors of society, including public health, law enforcement, and private citizens alike.

A survey conducted for the Massachusetts Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Partnership makes it clear that Massachusetts citizens are willing to take on these challenges. Ninety percent of those polled believe child sexual abuse is a serious problem, and 85 percent believe it can be prevented. Nearly half want to become more involved in ways to protect children. Two bills that would repeal the criminal and civil statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes are a step toward these ends.

Posted by kshaw at March 12, 2006 07:26 AM