* From a press release received last night…
Attorney General Lisa Madigan today urged members of the Illinois Senate’s Criminal Law Committee to pass legislation to eliminate the statutes of limitations for felony criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse crimes against children.
Madigan testified today before the Senate Criminal Law Committee in support of Senate Bill 189 to eliminate Illinois’ statutes of limitations that can allow child predators to go unpunished. Joining Madigan in testifying was Scott Cross, a survivor, Sen. Scott Bennett, the bill’s sponsor, and St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly.
The bill passed unanimously and heads to the full Senate for consideration.
“Children who suffer sexual assault and abuse often spend a lifetime trying to recover from the violations they have experienced,” Madigan said. “There should be no limitation on the pursuit of justice for felony sex crimes committed against children. We must ensure survivors are able to come forward in their own time and receive the support they need and deserve.”
“Dennis Hastert inflicted unbelievable pain on the lives of the youth he was entrusted to care for, yet he got a slap on the wrist,” Scott Cross said. “As a teacher and coach, Hastert silenced his victims through the power he had over them. As he ascended to political power and seemingly became untouchable, the pain and suffering of survivors got buried. He had the power, prestige and law on his side. As hard as it is to talk about the events of the past, the laws in Illinois - and across the country - have to change.”
“As a former prosecutor, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating physical and emotional impacts of child sex crimes. It is because of these experiences that I believe we must have the ability to prosecute the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes whenever the survivors come forward – even if that is years after the crime,” Bennett said.
“There is no time limit for the pain and trauma endured by child victims of sex assault, and there should be no time limit for our ability to reach just for them,” Brendan Kelly said.
As more child survivors of abuse and sexual assault have come forward to describe the difficult process that they have endured in reporting, states across the country have eliminated statutes of limitations for these crimes. Nationwide, 36 other states and the federal government have removed criminal statutes of limitations for some or all sexual offenses against children.
Currently no statutes of limitations exist in Illinois for murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, arson, treason, forgery or the production of child pornography. Under current state law, the most egregious sexual offenses against children must be reported and prosecuted within 20 years of the survivor turning 18 years old. Two exceptions include cases in which the crimes were committed on or after Jan. 1, 2014 and either corroborating physical evidence exists or a mandated reporter failed to report the abuse.
* From Scott Cross’ testimony…
“When I was abused, I knew exactly what was happening. As a young man, the challenge that you deal with and the suffering, the pain and torture, I still deal with that almost 38 years later,” Cross, now a banker in Wheaton, told committee members. “It’s not something you talked about. You didn’t do anything about it. It was an awful situation.
“I’m here today because I’m trying to move forward and have other voices move forward, that it’s OK, don’t keep that silence.” […]
“There’s no good reason to provide a legal loophole to protect sexual predators from prosecution,” he said. “The Illinois General Assembly should provide sexual predators no safe harbor under the law based on arbitrary deadlines established by the stroke of a pen.
“It should offend everyone’s faith in the judicial system that Illinois’ laws today would still allow child molesters to avoid prosecution for heinous acts of sexual abuse because survivors didn’t come forward in time. It took me 36-plus years to come forward.”
On average, Cross said, it takes a victim 42 years “before they’re able to deal with this.”
“With children, it won’t come as any surprise, that it is almost always somebody in a position of trust because that’s how they’re able to develop that relationship,” said the Attorney General. Cross explained by saying, “And that’s why you don’t say anything. You remain silent. You know these people too well and it becomes - it’s my word against his, and you’re so, so hesitant to speak out to anybody because of the trust factor.”
Cross says he’s trying to move forward with his life, but it hasn’t been an easy journey. “The guilt that you have about not being able to stop it back then in 1979, and here it’s 2017 and we’re talking about it today,” said Cross.
SB 189 passed unanimously in the committee on Tuesday and now heads to the full senate.
Right now, there are 36 states that do not have statutes of limitations on child sex crimes.
The bill is here.