By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center
This week I was asked about some new laws that passed in Oregon and what they mean for victims. One extends the statute of limitations for sexual abuse. One increases penalties for people who video record or take pictures of victims during private moments and one makes it a crime to post “revenge porn”.
For years our laws have provided more protection and more rights to offenders.
This has allowed offenders to find refuge…a safe haven if you will. They did not have to go into hiding. They find it right under our noses. By the time the victim could find healing and could understand that the assault was not their fault; it was too late to find justice or to hold the offender accountable because the statute of limitation had run out. It could no longer be prosecuted.
These laws are steps in the right direction. These laws help to find some balance of the justice scales for victims, but there is still much work to be done.
Until our societal views on sexual abuse change, our laws will continue to put limits on what justice the victims can find.
Many of you are probably questioning what I am talking about. Society is against sexual violence. Well, not really. We want to be, because that is the right belief to have. However, we still victim blame. We still unfortunately believe offenders are innocent even in the face of some strong evidence in some cases. We still really think the victims are making it up, that they are lying.
Again I am sure you are asking yourself, what does she mean?
Let’s for moment examine some recent cases that have been in the news. Yes. I am going to bring THAT one up. Bill Cosby. See.
You are thinking that case is different. Immediately you begin to say the victims are lying to get money. Immediately you begin to say, if it were true, they would have reported before. There would be prosecution.
That last one gets tricky because he has been charged now and there will be a prosecution unless he pleads guilty or it gets dismissed because of too much pressure from society on the victim.
What about the two Duggar girls? What about the young girl who was sexually assaulted by the Notre Dame Football player? She committed suicide, after she made a report. Are we sure she was lying?
A sexual assault is an event. Sometimes more than one event.
BUT healing and recovery is a process.
It is difficult to find strength to report to authorities if you know no one will believe you. It is difficult to stay the course when at every turn someone is questioning whether or not you are telling the truth.
So you stay silent. Maybe you get into therapy and begin to realize you have inner strength. And maybe you continue your therapy and realize you were not to blame. You find the strength to make a report. To you, it has only been a few minutes. In reality it has been years. Sometimes a life time. Does that mean that your offender should not be held accountable?
Let’s look at the Revenge Porn law.
Basically it says that it is now illegal to disseminate an intimate image. This is looking at how common it has become to send intimate pictures to someone you are in a relationship. This law says that you cannot disclose an intimate picture to a website with a specific intent to harass or humiliate another person. Some of you are saying that the picture should not have been taken and sent in the first place. You should be asking why it has taken so long to make this a law.
See…societal views determine what happens and who is protected.
The third law makes it a felony to photograph or record someone in a state of nudity without consent and in a place where the victim expected privacy. Prior to the passage of this law it was a misdemeanor. You may remember a case in Oregon about a man who “up-skirted” a young girl and it was only a misdemeanor.
Many people will say, “How does it impact the victim if she/he does not know the pictures/video is being taken?”
Think about it this way. What if your daughter, granddaughter, niece, son, grandson, googles their name and up comes pictures taken in the gym locker room changing clothes? What if you found out those pictures had been sold to someone who sexually abuses children? What if you found out those pictures were posted on a porn site? What if you found out that someone was using your child’s image to satisfy some weird perversion?
Seems pretty devastating to me.
I am hoping for a shift in the way we, as society think about sexual crimes.
I am hoping that not only in Oregon but across the Nation we begin to balance the protection of the victim with the protection of the offender’s constitutional rights.
The next time you hear about a sexual assault, I hope that your first thought is not that the victim is lying. I hope your first thought is not that the victim is trying to ruin the offender’s life.
I hope in my life time we balance the scales of justice for victims.