Excerpt from “Letter to the Editor” on desmoinesregister.com
State Sen. Janet Petersen deserves credit for taking on the issue of child sexual abuse in a difficult political climate, but the opposition she’s encountering shows how little this crime is understood even by lawmakers and others who should know better.
This is especially true concerning the retroactive “window” provision for civil actions, which Petersen had to remove to make the SF107 bill more palatable to her colleagues and to lobbyists from the Iowa Catholic Conference and the Iowa Association of School Boards. These opponents argue that they could not defend against claims of decades-old crimes because witnesses die and/or records get destroyed. Sounds reasonable, but this is a classic red herring distraction.
For obvious reasons, witnesses and official records regarding child sexual abuse are scarce even for recently perpetrated crimes. In reality, most abusers and enablers are discovered or convicted not through witnesses or documents but through the detailed independent corroboration of other victims, and therein lies the real fear that these claims will make it to a public courtroom.
Legal claims regarding decades-old abuse have to meet the same standards of evidence and case merit as any other civil action, so the legislative “window” is hardly a carte blanche for false or frivolous lawsuits. Child sexual abuse is an all-too common crime with devastating lifelong consequences for victims, and for Iowa’s school boards and Catholic bishops to deny justice to these individuals is appalling and indefensible.
— Bill LaHay, Des Moines
Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences. The prevention and protection of our children is an adult responsibility. Although federal laws provide standards and guidelines, most child abuse issues are governed by state laws and regulations. It is then crucial for our state legislators to join with their communities and learn the facts surrounding child sexual abuse. We won’t accept gridlock when the future of a child’s life is at stake. We applaud Iowa State Sen. Petersen for being the voice for the voiceless.