Despite the continuing pain professed by those who allege charges of sexual harassment aganst Harvey Weinstein’s the clear majority of them will never see justice. Unless any of them experienced his alleged sexual indecencies and alleged aggressions within the last two years in California or during similar brief durations of time in other states, the courthouse doors will remain permanently closed, because the vast majority of state statute of limitations do not recognize the irrefutable truths concerning the effects of trauma on victims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. These accusers are in a very similar position to the untold numbers of victims of childhood sexual abuse who don’t come forward until years (often decades) after their abuse. For example, though sexual abuse in private and boarding schools has received an enormous amount of publicity in the last two years, precious few of those victims ever will get a chance to sue their abusers or their schools, because of the unforgiving, draconian statutes of limitations on the books in most states. And the same story can be told of victims of clergy and Boy Scout abuse. For all the screaming headlines over the last 15 years, only a minority of people sexual abused as altar servers or boy scouts will ever obtain the justice they so deserve. And be clear, there is no doubt that institutions and other entities which employ sexual abusers and sexual harassers take advantage of a victim’s silence – a silence that is often self-imposed, because of embarrassment, confusion and self-blame. Threats by the abusers themselves also play no small role in enforcing this silence.
Sexual abuse and harassment are offenses written in disappearing ink – abusers and harassers and those who employ them can count on the fact that most victims will go to their graves with their ‘secret.’ And as a result, it is as if the crimes never happened. If a victim can muster the will to come forward (knowing that she or he will likely be labeled a liar or opportunist), these institutions and companies can handily be disposed of the complaints. There are reports that Mr. Weinstein allegedly paid several women settlements in the aftermath of the alleged complaints. Such a practice has been a standard business practice for decades for the Catholic Church, private schools, boarding schools and other institutions of trust as well as a slew of large companies.
It’s time to recognize that requiring victims of child sexual abuse and sexual harassment to act within a very short proscribed period absolutely falls to consider the very genuine psychological and emotional impediments faced by victims. There is no legitimate debate anymore concerning the severe deleterious effects of sexual abuse and harassment and it’s time for the law to change to meet these realities.