In the year since Delaware adopted the Child Victim’s Act, considered the nation’s toughest law against child sexual abuse, three men have won financial settlements, public acknowledgement of their childhood abuse and apologies from the institutions that once supervised their abusers. Ten other men, claiming abuse that occurred as far back as 1954 and as recently as 2006, are awaiting their days in court. Considered a national model by some children’s advocates and a dangerous constitutional precedent by some defense attorneys, the law eliminated the state’s two-year civil statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases and provided a two-year window — ending July 10, 2009 — during which cases previously barred by the time limit can be filed, reports the News Journal.
Other states now are watching Delaware as its law unfolds. So far, they’ve seen fewer cases filed than expected, but all with a common theme. Although the law applies to any type of child sexual abuse, every case filed so far involves men who say they were abused by Catholic priests. That’s a statistical anomaly: nationwide, clergy account for less than 5 percent of perpetrators in reported child sexual abuse cases; nonclergy adults make up the other 95 percent. About half the legislatures in the nation have reviewed their statutes of limitations since the scandal of clergy sexual abuse emerged nationally in 2002. Some have considered longer “windows” to give victims more time to consider the option. California had a one-year window in 2003. Delaware doubled the time period.