Posted Tuesday, June 19, 2007 as the lead editorial in the News Journal
House should protect future victims and give past ones some justice
The Delaware House of Representatives is scheduled to open debate today on Senate Bill 29, the Child Victim’s Act.
House members should follow the actions of their Senate colleagues and pass the bill as is.
The bill, and any legal actions that may follow, will not take back the harm done to children who were sexually abused by persons in authority. But it does offer them some protection under the law and a small measure of justice.
Sex abuse in childhood places an enormous burden on the victim. It may take years to recover and more years for the victim to act. S.B. 29 will remove the arbitrary statute of limitations imposed on victims, allowing them time to recover and to act.
The bill also gives victims of past abuse a two-year opportunity to pursue the justice that has been denied them by legal limitations.
S.B. 29 also wisely offers private or public institutions that held these victims in their care the protection of demanding any accuser prove gross negligence on the institution’s part.
The bill also allows the accused to regain legal fees when the accusation is determined to be false and malicious.
We objected to the time provision of a similar bill that was presented to the Legislature last year. We have since been persuaded that our court system, with its rules of evidence and constitutional proceedings, would give any accused institution ample protections under this bill.
S.B. 29 will not relieve the trauma or end the victim’s nightmares. It will not restore the robbed childhood .
But it will open the courts to allow victims to pursue some semblance of justice.
This is a small step, but one worth taking.