99 Maple Street | Middlebury | VT | 05753 • 57 Court Street | Plattsburgh | NY | 12901 802-465-4012 • 518-594-6046 Champlain Val ley Law R. Drew Palcsik Attorney at Law PLLC
What Statute Amendments Mean to Survivors How New Laws Affect Survivors
We face a lot of challenges in our world, but from time to time, we get a victory. Just this year, we got a couple of big ones in the form of amendments Vermont and New York made to their statutes of limitations. These amendments give victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to process what happened and file charges later in life, if they choose to do so. I recently published a book on this topic that shows the lasting effects of abuse from my personal experience, including during my time in the Air Force. Along with my co-author, Janice Ann Wheeler, I illustrate the sheer impact abuse can have on someone. My personal experience taught me behavior no child should ever have to utilize. I learned how to be a great liar, became manipulative to mask what happened to me, and developed a habit of internalizing things. As a child, you don’t want people to find out. The abuser makes you feel like it’s your fault, so you end up protecting them.
I remember complaining of a burning belly as a child, and, it turns out, I developed an ulcer from the stress of hiding the abuse. I was petrified my parents would find out that I had been sodomized and raped. After one of the roughest attacks by my abuser, it just stopped. I didn’t know how or why. I was waiting for him to come around the corner or appear from the dark. I was afraid of turning off the lights or sleeping because I worried he would be there. Years passed before I was on military leave and saw him again. I was at a store with my sister when I saw him with another kid. I became physically sick. I felt nauseous as I ran out of the store. I tried to keep it together, but the wave of emotion was too much, and I knew I had to tell my family. I was maybe 30 when I decided to tell my parents what David, a longtime family friend, had done to me. I went through a period of self-destruction — at one point, I would drink 30–40 beers a night. My career in the Air Force ended abruptly, and I lost my dad to cancer. I was married and divorced multiple times, and I was also handling a considerable amount of PTSD from my time in the Air Force. I’ve since had the opportunity to become a public speaker on PTSD. I discuss the sexual abuse I suffered as a child and the horrors I saw firsthand in the Air Force. When I talk about what happened to me, I’m pretty open and honest about it. Because of that willingness, I’ve had so many people talk to me about the “David” in their lives. Hearing my story gives them courage to speak out about what happened to them. With the new amendments to the statute of limitations,
these victims can seek justice for their abuse and hold the perpetrators responsible.
I’ve done four speaking engagements since the amendments passed, and I have already had two people come forward saying they will file charges against their abusers. One was a retired law enforcement officer. He reached out to me, and we talked about what had happened to him. It was a tough conversation for both of us. This man felt he previously never had a chance to break down and tell someone. Sadly, there is still stigma around these topics, and this officer felt he had a certain image to maintain. Now he has council and is moving forward with his case. Many people don’t want to come forward while they process what happened to them. By the time they work up the courage to do so, they often feel like they can’t due to the statute of limitations. Many victims likely thought, “Why bother?” when the old statute of limitations was in play. From their perspective, why would they step forward and relive the horrors they suffered when justice could likely never be served? The amendments to the statute of limitations are a big win for victims, but there is still a long road ahead for those seeking justice for their abuse. If you have suffered childhood sexual abuse, you’re not alone. You do have a voice. This statute of limitations victory gives you the opportunity to seek justice if and when you feel ready.
-Scott W.F. Aubin
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