by Edwin Santana
The Pennsylvania grand jury report released last Tuesday is truly horrific. The scope of the report, from the number of predators, survivors, and length of time this abuse occurred, is staggering. We see reports like this and throw our hands up in disbelief, as if this is an isolated incident and we cannot understand the evil that took place here. The truth is, from the military to college campuses, and Hollywood to the halls of Congress, rampant sexual assault and abuse is nothing new.
During my campaign for Congress, our team decided to make Combating Sexual Assault a plank on our platform. It is a difficult, uncomfortable subject, but as we see from this grand jury report, the consequences are severe when we can’t confront these problems directly. The first step is being able to talk about the issue and shedding light on this darkness. The next step needs to be legislative action.
State governments should remove the statute of limitations on sexual assault and abuse, particularly when it occurs during childhood. It takes great courage for survivors to come forward, and that process takes time. Robbing a survivor of the justice they deserve because they weren’t able to step forward in time is appalling. I applaud Pennsylvania for conducting this grand jury investigation and urge other states to do the same, but don’t stop at the Catholic Church. Abuse occurs in many systems of power that we have established, and if this abuse can occur in a system instituted by God, then it can definitely occur in our schools, military, and state government. I strongly advocate that we expand the scope of the investigation so no abuser in a position of power feels safe.
The Federal government should play a role in this process, so no matter which of the 50 states or territories you or our family live in, you will be protected from this systemic abuse. Our campaign presented legislation to be passed at the Federal level that would address this issue in four ways:
- Implement affirmative consent as the national standard.
- Teach affirmative consent through age appropriate methods in public schools.
- Require investigations and prosecutions be conducted through a third party.
- Conduct expert led studies to determine the necessary resources and protections that should be put in place for survivors.
An institution of God created the conditions by which this abuse occurred, and we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought it stopped there. This problem is extremely uncomfortable, but ignoring it may cost people their lives. When almost 50% of women are survivors of some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, we’re dealing with a problem that is bipartisan and cuts across all socioeconomic and racial lines. The Pennsylvania grand jury report showed us just how bad this problem is, now it’s time for us to step up and do something about it.