Before long, the Illinois state legislators could be casting their votes to eliminate the statute of limitations regarding the sexual abuse of children. This is in response to a sentence of 15 months recently given to Dennis Hastert, former Speaker for the Illinois House of Representatives. Despite Hastert’s admission of guilt in the molestation of several young boys that he used to coach, the crimes in question fell outside the existing statute of limitations and the former politician could only be convicted for the crime of trying to bribe one of said sexual abuse victims several million dollars to keep the incident covered up.
Scott Cross, one of Hastert’s victims, testified before a federal court in Chicago about “his darkest secret”. That secret was that while participating in high school wrestling in 1979, Hastert had been his coach and had sexually abused him. Judge Thomas Durkin of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois expressed his frustration that Hastert could not be charged for the sexual abuse itself due to the statute of limitations. Durkin was not alone in this sentiment, as U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon was quoted as saying, “I wish Mr. Hastert had been called on the carpet in 1968, and we’d all be better for it”.
Contrary to the current Illinois policy of allowing child victims of sexual abuse to bring charges against their attackers up to the age of 38, the 60’s and 70’s did not provide the opportunity for victims of similar crimes. Unfortunately, professionals who treat sexual abuse survivors advise that even 20+ years is not enough time for those who were abused as children to feel comfortable speaking out against their abuser. Often, this is because the individual in question is either someone they know/trust and/or is a well-respected member of the community. “That is the primary reason victims do not report – they won’t be believed”, says Polly Poskin of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Poskin asserts that it often takes victims years to struggle through and understand the incident and why they were attacked, often blaming themselves. These individuals are forced to confront the pain, shame, and assumed guilt of their abuse.