A Great New Idea: CAPTA Would Have Feds Prod States Toward Key Reform

What a smart idea!

Federal monies have long been used to prod states to take stronger steps toward public safety (think highway design, speed limits, seat belts).

Now, for the first time, two U.S. representatives are prodding the federal government to provide financial incentives to states that reform their archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly statutes of limitations on child sex crimes.

Statutes of limitations are basically deadlines that say, “If you were hurt in this way, you have until YEAR X to file criminal charges or civil lawsuits. After that, you forever lose your rights and your access to the courts.”

For decades, these statutes of limitations have been a huge gift to those who commit or conceal child sex crimes.,

But Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) want to change this. Late last month, they introduced the bipartisan Statutes of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse Reform Act.

The legislation would make more grants available to states that receive Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) funding if the state meets the reforms standards laid out in the bill. (We’re talking a lot of money. In 2019, funding for CAPTA was $25,310,000.)

Those reform standards relax the rigid deadlines and give abuse survivors more opportunities to file litigation that achieves three crucial purposes:

—Protecting vulnerable kids by exposing adults who perpetrate abuse and their supervisors, colleagues and relatives who ignore or hide those crimes,

—Enabling police and prosecutors to more successfully investigate, charge and convict sex offenders and their allies, and

—Helping already wounded victims of such crimes get justice, healing, closure and compensation.

That this measure already has bipartisan sponsorship is already a real glimmer of hope, given our polarized society and deeply split political system. It’s clear that at least some public officials agree that protecting kids and stopping predators is crucial, and that one very efficient and effective way to do this is to relax or repeal the statute of limitations.

(For their own mental health, many abuse survivors and their supporters develop a sort of ‘gallows humor’ about this horror inflicted on so many children. Some call statutes of limitations “SOL” and say it also stands for “S—out of luck.”)

Not surprisingly, Congresswoman Salazar has two daughters and is an award-winning journalist, having “spent her career holding the corrupt and powerful accountable.” Congresswoman Wexton is a former prosecutor.

Who could be better equipped to steer this crucial legislation through the halls of Congress?

But don’t put the burden entirely on these two political figures. Please contact your own representative in DC and urge them to co-sponsor this measure.