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Does a new child protection bill actually help abusers?

A piece of New Jersey legislation purported to protect children may do exactly the opposite. The Child Protection Act (CPA) of 2012 is being criticized by victim advocates as actually protecting sex crime perpetrators and suspects. Some have argued that the bill actually detracts from another, stronger, bill that is also making its way through the legislative process.

According to some, the CPA is actually designed to limit the liability of institutions such as churches, schools and other organizations where children and authority figures come into contact with one another. The other bill includes language that would retroactively eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases, making it much easier for adults to sue their childhood abusers. Although the CPA also eliminates the deadline, its language only applies to future cases. Under the proposed CPA, past victims would be out of luck and unable to take legal action. It also eliminates liability for the institution, making only the actual abuser liable. This protects the Catholic Church, school districts and organizations such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, while priests, teachers and troop leaders remain liable.

Opponents of the CPA say that people need time to remember the sexual abuse, understand how it has affected their lives and develop the courage to take action. The sponsor of the CPA, Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), defends his bill saying that it protects children by requiring background checks and training so that abusers and children never meet. Those who prefer the other bill, introduced by Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), say that Greenwald's bill leaves thousands of victims with no recourse to justice.

Vitale's bill was reintroduced after it failed to pass during the last legislative session.

Source: N.j.com, "So-called 'Child Protection Act' would protect N.J. abusers, not abused," Apr. 5, 2012.

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