Why Childhood Sexual Abuse Perpetrators Walk Free

When we hear someone admitting to sexually abusing a little girl, we expect to hear details of their arrest and conviction. We don’t expect to hear that they’re still on the streets, taunting their victims, free to abuse other children.

That is exactly what happened with Marc Gafni, new age spiritualist, and colleague of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who has publically supported him. What’s more shocking is that Marc Gafni is like 90% (1) of people who sexually abuse children; they never see a day behind bars for their crimes.

In New York, the state’s draconian Statute of Limitations on this heinous crime ensure most child sexual abuse survivors lose all rights to press charges against their abusers on their 23rd birthday. Our current systems depend upon survivors disclosing and identifying their abuser. Without this, sex abusers remain on our streets and avoid the sex offender registries we all rely on to protect our children.

Research show it takes sex abuse victims, on average, 21 years (2) before they can start talking about the crime. The Statute of Limitations on child sex abuse ensures that most victims in New York can’t get a trial.

That’s exactly what happened with Gafni’s victims. Both of them were ashamed of the abuse they experienced, one of them shared how her parents blamed her when she told them.

So what happens when our judicial system is rigged so that we cannot arrest the people who sexually abuse children?

For one thing, it means we have a lot of child sexual abuse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, slightly over 20% of American children will be sexually abused before they turn 18 (3). Child sexual abuse is one of the ten Adverse Childhood Experiences (4) the CDC identified as causing permanent physical, mental, emotional and financial impairment throughout a victim’s lifetime.

Childhood sex abuse doesn’t just cause tears and nightmares; it causes diabetes, cancer, heart disease, addiction and financial insecurity and further victimization as an adult (5).

If it were a chemical leak or product malfunction that contributed to the above consequences, people affected by it would sue, and the offending corporation would have a financial incentive to mend its ways. But Statutes of Limitations prevent civil action. This denies the victims much needed money to compensate them for actual, demonstrable losses and ensures institutions that could potentially harbor sex offenders have little incentive to adopt best practices that protect children.

Statutes of Limitation have more subtle ways of hurting victims. Without a conviction, an abuser must be referred to as an “alleged abuser” and a victim as an “alleged victim.” Not only can “alleged abusers” legally work with children, but they can become influential in their communities, essentially “grooming” their community to trust them in the same way they “groom” their victims.

This is what is happening with Marc Gafni. He is influential, and he has wealthy and influential friends. He can afford PR consultants. And on paper, he’s not a criminal, despite his confession.

Without convictions, people have the choice to either believe something bad about someone who is “upstanding” or to think something bad about the victim. Society loves to blame victims. We want to believe these “upstanding” people would never harm a child. We want to believe that children make these things up. However, research shows that false allegations of sexual assault are rare.

Communities need conviction records that place sex offenders on sex offender registries, but the system is so broken that convictions are almost impossible to achieve; even when, like Marc Gafni, offenders admit to the crime.

No one likes people who sexually abuse children. That’s why Milo Yiannopoulos’ video where he defends child sexual abuse was able to unify the nation for a few brief days.

We hate sex offenders, and their crimes, so much we don’t want to talk about the issue. And that’s why the problem persists. We need to talk about child sexual abuse truthfully. We need to call out organizations and influencers who facilitate abuse.

That’s why we are protesting Whole Foods for publically supporting Marc Gafni. That’s why we are protesting the Statutes of Limitations that keep sex offenders on the street. The question is will you join us in protecting America’s children?

If not we can rest assured that one in every five American children will continue to be sexually abused. And one child is too many.

 

1 Robert Baker of the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board, Massachusetts Office of Public Safety. 2008.
2 Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse Among Male Survivors” by Scott D. Easton, December of 2013 Clinical Social Work Journal
3,4,5 Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study
Vincent J Felitti MD, FACPA, Robert F Anda MD, MSB, Dale Nordenberg MDC, David F Williamson MS, PhDB, Alison M Spitz MS, MPHB, Valerie Edwards BAB, Mary P Koss PhDD, James S Marks MD, MPHB

Photo Credit: joeymarasek Flickr via Compfight cc

Melanie Blow

Melanie Blow is the COO of the Stop Abuse Campaign. A survivor of incest, psychological abuse and a host of other childhood trauma, Melanie now uses her talents to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences. After getting a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry from SUNY Geneseo, Melanie worked for the American Red Cross Biomedical Services for 15 years. Melanie has experience organizing survivors and empowering them to discuss their abuse and advocate for social change. She has been involved with the New York Coalition to Protect Children, the Fighting for Children Political Action Committee, the Rochester Regional Coalition Against Human Trafficking, the Rochester chapter of Love146, the legislative advocacy committee of the American Professional Society of the Abuse of Children, the Trauma Informed Community Initiative of Western NY, and served on the Board of Directors for Prevent Child Abuse NY. Melanie has over a decade of legislative advocacy regarding children’s issues, and she has been published in newspapers, magazines, and blogs all across the country.

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