If you want to get high regularly, what state do you move to? Colorado. If you want to sexually abuse children, what state do you move to? Arizona.
Arizona ranks last in the country for laws protecting children who have been sexually abused. Current statute only gives a child victim of sexual assault until their 20th birthday to file a civil lawsuit against his or her abuser, along with those who knew about the sexual assault and covered it up.
In fact, Arizona doesn’t even have a separate statute for child victims of sexual assault as this falls under the personal injury statute. This means a child rape in Arizona and a guy who slips on a banana peel at the store fall under the same law.
Further, if a child sexual abuse survivor comes forward after the age of 20 and tries to expose his or her perpetrator, he or she can be sued for slander by the perpetrator if the statute of limitations has passed – regardless of how much evidence he or she presents.
Indeed, Arizona laws favor the child rapist. The perpetrator doesn’t need to silence the victim forever … just until he or she is 20 years of age.
The short window these young adults have between their 18th and 20th birthday to hire an attorney, upend their lives, and pursue a claim against someone they know may be nearly impossible for the victim – emotionally and even financially – as victims are more likely to experience symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse, job loss, homelessness, and physical symptoms due to exposure to trauma they experienced as a child.
While there is no “magic age” for a victim to come forward and report the abuse, we know that in most cases it takes decades to process the emotional and psychological trauma victims experienced as children who have undergone sexual assault.
We also know perpetrators don’t stop sexually assaulting children until they are caught or they no longer have access to children. Since perpetrators seek employment or volunteer opportunities where children congregate, exposing child predators is the only way to prevent ongoing or future sexual abuse of children. Neither public nor private institutions should be held harmless for harboring child predators.
Arizona must further hold those who cover up for child predators accountable. Otherwise, the abuse will continue. If a child predator could only wait on a park bench with the intent to harm a child, he’s less likely to be successful. This is why child predators seek out organizations where children congregate. With the backing and approval of the organization supporting them, the predator has more opportunities to groom and harm children. Without the trust and the credibility organizations backing them, such as USA gymnastics and Penn State University, Larry Nasser and Jerry Sandusky wouldn’t have had access to so many children nor the opportunity to sexually assault as many children as they have.
So, instead of allowing state law to benefit the perpetrators, let’s protect the victims and pass SB1101 so perpetrators are exposed and they know that, in Arizona, they can no longer abuse children and get away with it.
Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, represents Legislative District 20 and teaches high school.