Whilst the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England & Wales focuses its attention on reviewing legal processes available to deliver reparation to victims and survivors of abuse, and in particular to consider whether the law (such as the statute of Limitations) should be changed, we can see the impact a change in the law can have in other jurisdictions.
In the US, the start of the academic year is called the “red zone”, as more than 50% of sexual assaults are said to occur between August and November. These assaults are under-reported and, until recently, have not always been properly investigated. Criminal prosecutions of rape and sexual assault cases occurring on campus are rare and universities have been accused of protecting those accused of sexual assault, including athletes.
Last month, 38 former students of Yeshiva University High School for Boys in New York City filed a lawsuit against the school alleging systematic sexual abuse by Rabbi George Finkelstein, Rabbi Macy Gordon and Richard Andron, during the mid-50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. 34 of the plaintiffs (known as claimants in English law) tried to sue Yeshiva University High School for Boys in 2013, however their actions failed in 2014 when a New York District Court Judge ruled that their claims were time barred.
Following on from our blog last week dealing with the sexual abuse of children in Europe, there have been further developments in France, where French surgeon Joël Le Scouarnec is currently being investigated in relation to the alleged rape of two girls, aged four and six in Western France.
Le Scouarnec denies raping the girls but his lawyers have indicated that he has admitted to “deviant behaviour” with them. He is currently remanded in custody with the criminal trial scheduled to proceed before the end of the year.
Judge Richard Berman presiding over the Jeffrey Epstein trial, took the unprecedented step on Tuesday (27 August) of allowing the victims and survivors, who accused the late Jeffrey Epstein of sexual offences, to make impact statements in the case against Epstein.
Federal prosecutors in the case required permission from the judge to drop the sex trafficking charges following Epstein’s death. The hearing was scheduled so that the victims and survivors could tell their stories before the case against Epstein was dismissed. Judge Berman, who is also a licensed social worker and has written a number of articles on child abuse and safeguarding, praised the complainants for having “the courage to come forward.”
The Victoria Court of Appeal yesterday rejected the appeal by Cardinal Pell against his convictions for sexual abuse against two boys in Melbourne in the 1990s.
Pell was sentenced to six years in prison in March 2019 on foot of these convictions. He has and continues to maintain his innocence.
For understandable reasons focus will often be on events close to home and the consideration of sexual abuse of children is no exception in that regard. Sadly however the abuse of children, whether many years ago or current, and the challenges in responding to the same are worldwide concerns.. Some recent instances of events in Europe are evidence of that.