Maryland, Pass the Hidden Predator Act!
Dear [title] [last name],
In 2019 and 2020, the Maryland House of Delegates stood up for children and survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) and passed The Hidden Predator Act. Last year’s Judiciary Committee and House votes were unanimous, but unfortunately due to COVID-19 ending Maryland’s General Assembly early, the bill did not receive a Senate hearing.
The Hidden Predator Act was developed to provide justice and healing for survivors, to shift the enormous costs of child sexual abuse from survivors and taxpayers to the perpetrators and institutions who caused the harm, and to prevent child sexual abuse by:
· Eliminating the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims going forward (for claims arising October 1, 2021 or later)
· Creating a lookback window for those victims who have been previously barred by the statute of limitations, allowing them to file suit for a period of two years (any such claims must be filed by October 1, 2023).
· Removing the so called “statute of repose” to make it clear to the courts, the public and survivors that the Maryland General Assembly was unaware of the constitutional implications of a “statute of repose” (language offered behind the scenes by the Maryland Catholic Conference) and did not intend to vest constitutionally protected property rights in child sexual predators nor the individuals and organizations that hid predators from discovery and prosecution, allowing them to continue to victimize children.
The significance of this legislation cannot be overstated in creating a culture that provides a safe place (the courts) for survivors to speak out and be heard and that puts perpetrators and the institutions that hide predators from discovery and prosecution on notice that they will be held accountable for the harm and not be able to hide behind statutes of limitation. The elimination of statutes of limitations and look back windows in other states have provided opportunity for much needed civil discovery that has uncovered hidden predators who continued to harm children. For example, under California’s 1-year lookback window, 300 abusers were identified.
The average age for adults to disclose childhood sexual abuse is 52. Research shows that children who experience Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs), such as child sexual abuse, can have poor long-term mental and physical health, educational, and employment outcomes at enormous cost to individuals and the state. The trauma from childhood sexual abuse may lead to PTSD, alcohol and opioid abuse, depression, suicide, and poor educational and employment outcomes. The lookback window provides survivors a window of time to access justice and shifts the costs of healing to those who caused the harm. It also provides protection for our children who may still be at risk from formerly unknown abusers and leads to improved institutional practices that keep children safe from sexual predators.
We respectfully request you to vote favorably on SB134.