For me, the most frustrating part of following politics at the local level is getting someone from the legislature to champion your cause. I don't know how these things work in other states, but here in Georgia, if you can't get a representative to take a personal interest in an issue, it's never going to hit the governor's desk.
The second hardest part is getting the voters to care.
For years now, advocates for the victims of childhood sexual abuse have been fighting to reform our state laws. But we're not a powerful group. We don't have millions of dollars to spend on TV ads or to lobby the legislature. We have a couple of non-profits working to aid the victims. We have a few Republican women who have stayed on this and badgered our lawmakers. And we have social media. But quite honestly, it's not an issue that a lot of people even give much thought to.
Until it happens to someone you love.
Imagine finding out that your child was not only abused in the most horrific way possible, but that the abuse came from someone you trusted to care for him. Maybe it was a Boy Scout leader, a coach or a teacher. Maybe it was even a minister or priest. Imagine your guilt and agony when you found out that this had happened to your precious child.
Now imagine finding out there was nothing you could do about it.
Georgia is currently one of the worst states in America for finding justice for these victims. Under current law, you can't file for civil damages after the victim turns 23. That's a serious problem since the average age of reporting these crimes is 42. Why so long? Most children and teens don't even realize that what is happening to them is a crime. Many victims are lost to suicide and substance abuse. Others can never get past the trauma and the shame to even share what happened to them. And many who finally do find the courage to come forward find that at least here, they have no legal recourse.
The criminal statute of limitations was lifted back in 2012, but sadly, it's not retroactive. Going forward, the state will be able to file criminal charges at any time. It's too late for older victims, but it will protect all of our children in the future.
There is currently a bill before the state Senate called "The Human Predator Act." It passed the house unanimously last week. But it's facing a lot of opposition in the Senate. That's because a lot of organizations DO have a lot of money and they are spending it now to stop this law. Because, they don't want to be sued. They would rather spend money now to protect themselves than do something to help victims who were hurt under their watch.
I got involved in this because a high school friend of mine was molested by our youth minister. The pervert is still out there. He's been able to find work here in Georgia in spite of admitting to the allegations against him. That's because the criminal statute of limitations on his crimes has expired. He could be working for YOUR CHURCH now. How would you feel if this monster got ahold of YOUR child? And what would you do if you found out that the church had been warned but still hired him? Chances are that you wouldn't be able to do anything at all.
I've spent a lot of time here writing about the Larry Nassar case. What if your daughter had been a gymnast abused by him? Would you want to sue? Well, if she's over 23, you'd be out of luck under our current law.
But we can change that. We can make Georgia a safer place for children by making it more dangerous for pedophiles. We can send a message that the people of this state won't tolerate those who abuse children, or those who cover for them.
Representative Jason Spencer has been a zealous advocate for this bill. Until this year, he was pretty much alone. But the current legislation has been co-sponsored by Mary Margaret Oliver, Buzz Brockway, Spencer Frye, Paulette Rakestraw and Stacey Evans. I want to thank all of them for their work on this.
I want to urge - no, I want to BEG all of you who live here in Georgia to contact your state senator and urge him/her to support this legislation. They need to hear from us.
Because they're certainly going to be hearing from the opponents.