Extension of Sexual Abuse Bill Brings Hope

Via Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse (SCSA)

Louisiana House Bill 492 states, according to the bill’s digest that it, “Extends the prescriptive period for certain actions against a person for abuse of a minor from 10 years to 35 years.”  With those simple words, a new bill helping sexual assault victims may be passed. The bill, created by New Orleans Democratic State Representative Jason Hughes, is, according to many sexual abuse survivors, very necessary.

The bill itself states that: “An action against a person for sexual abuse of a minor, or for physical abuse of a minor resulting in permanent impairment or permanent physical injury or scarring, is subject to a liberative prescriptive period of ten to thirty-five years. This prescription commences to run from the day the minor attains majority, and this prescription shall be suspended for all purposes until the minor reaches the age of majority.”

Richard Windmann, Co-Founder and President of Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (SCSA), says he was the victim of sexual abuse by both a member of the clergy and an NOPD officer from the age of seven to aged 17. He says of the bill, “It’s long needed. We needed this bill decades ago.” He adds, “I think it’s very important for victims of childhood sex abuse on their side to have some type of legal remedy to pave their healing process.”

Ten years to report, it seems, is not long enough for those who are victims of sexual abuse, Windmann says. “Victims of child sex abuse come forward very late in life. Typically, in their late forties or early fifties. I, myself, came forward at 52.”

According to RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) men and boys face an additional challenge due to society’s stereotypical views of masculinity. Boys experience the added shame of not being “manly” or “strong” enough to fight off their abuser(s).

There are a variety of other reasons children don’t tell as the abuse occurs, according to experts in the field. The reasons may include parents who may not be supportive or perpetrators who threaten the child that’s being abused. Children fear breaking up the family when the abuser is a family member. This can lead to feelings of fear, guilt, and shame on the part of victims. The consensus of research in the field demonstrates that most victims of crime often suffer initially from self-blame, rather than blaming the abuser.

According to the Lacasa Center a non-profit that provides help for victims of child abuse and interpersonal violence, the reasons children don’t tell are complex. Children are in coping mode, and confusion and disillusionment are common. These feelings may be carried forward well into adulthood.

Windmann says that these victims, as they carry their secret into their forties, fifties, and onward, can suffer from a variety of mental conditions: “suffering from CPTSD, sometimes PTSD and depression. That’s without exception. Some of them also have dissociative disorder.” This can also lead to drug use, alcohol abuse, and a plethora of other concerns. By their forties or fifties, “…they just simply can’t take it anymore. They commit suicide or have to come forward. When they come forward, they cross the threshold from victim to survivor.”

I spoke to Jean, who was molested as a child by a family friend. “I didn’t tell anyone then. I was ashamed. When I finally did tell my mother years later, she told me not to tell anyone else. Our dirty linen was not to be aired in public.”

Her decision to finally speak publicly about her trauma, like Windmann, came many years after the abuse. “I wasn’t able to acknowledge the incidents until my 30’s. I finally realized the shame wasn’t mine.”

So, according to Windmann, the bill is highly necessary. Windmann would prefer that there be no statute of limitations but believes that the increase to thirty-five years will help most people who have experienced this kind of trauma. “I think that’ll cover most folks who come forward and you give them some coverage.”

But despite any form of compensation or legal vindication, there’s only so much that can be done, Windmann says, “There is no cure for what they have. It’s only something that they can try and attempt to successfully manage.”

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