RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) — Bills introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly would broaden the state’s power to investigate child sexual abuse crimes and raise the statute of limitations on claims of past abuse.
The proposals, labeled the Sexual Assault Fast reporting and Enforcement Child Act, or SAFE Child Act, gained early support from a Republican and Democrat lawmakers.
Several legislators appeared alongside child welfare advocates at a March 7 news conference in Raleigh led by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a parent or a policymaker, nothing is more important than keeping children safe from sexual abuse,” Stein said. “It’s critical that we protect kids wherever they are or spend time, whether that’s in their home or at summer camp or an afterschool activity or online.”
With the proposed legislation, Stein said, “More children who were abused will see justice, and more abusers will see prison time.”
Following Stein’s news conference, the Diocese of Raleigh posted a statement on its website stating, “The Diocese of Raleigh looks forward to reviewing the proposed act recently announced by Attorney General Stein and supports efforts to further protect North Carolina’s children from sexual abuse.”
“Bishop (Luis) Zarama and the diocese support additional measures that would further clarify or expedite reports of suspected abuse and aid survivors in healing,” the statement continued.
The legislation would extend the statute of limitations on misdemeanor child sexual abuse cases from two years after the alleged assault occurred to 10 years. Felony abuse cases already have no time limit on prosecution.
The statute of limitations on civil lawsuits related to claims of past child sexual abuse would extend to when the alleged victim reaches the age of 45 (in the House version) or age of 50 (in the Senate version). Under current law, the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits generally expires when the victim turns 21.
Noting that victims often don’t come forward until years — sometimes even decades — later, Stein said, “We fully anticipate that more charges will be brought and more civil claims will be brought, because we know a great deal more about the psychological impact of abuse of children.”
The proposed legislation would also empower the attorney general to convene an investigative grand jury to examine child sexual abuse claims — a power currently not available in North Carolina.
The legislation would also mandate that all “high risk” sex offenders register their computer’s IP address in addition to their physical address on the North Carolina sex offender registry.
Another provision would require any adult or institution that suspects child abuse to report it to local police — not just to the North Carolina Department of Social Services as current law mandates. Failure to report abuse would be a misdemeanor.
Both the Charlotte and Raleigh dioceses already report all allegations of child sexual abuse to DSS as well as to the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, which then routes the report to the appropriate local law enforcement agency to investigate.
Guilfoyle is editor of the Catholic News Herald, the newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Group’s immigrant solidarity project ‘not about politics,’ organizers say
NEXT: Abuse summit results in recommendations for diocesan best practices
Share this story