This post contains a compilation of articles about the lawsuit I initiated in 1985 against my father for sexually assaulting me. He attacked me from the time I was an infant until I was 12 years old. I lost the lawsuit because of the statute of limitations, which said that I had 3 years from the time I was 18 to sue my perpetrator in civil court for damages that resulted from his crimes. The problem that most survivors of sexual abuse have is in PROVING that the attack(s) took place. I had the advantage of having documents from the criminal case against my father.
My father was arrested on xmas day in 1962 after my younger brother disclosed to my mother that he had witnessed my father performing a sex act on me. I was taken to the police station where a sweaty cop behind a desk interviewed me ALONE. My father was arrested and he gave a statement to the police. I had the arrest report, an affidavit written out by my mother and the court proceedings in front of the Grand Jury in the Family Court in Buffalo, NY., and so I felt that I had the proof that would allow me to challenge the statute and give other survivors a tool for fighting back against their abusers.
My father was not convicted because my brother and I were minors and therefore not legally viable as witnesses to the abuse, I was forced to testify before the Grand Jury in any case, alone in the courtroom with the States’ Attorney, my father’s lawyer, the judge and 12 men in grey suits. They only wanted to hear about the single incident that my brother witnessed, which was just insane, because my father abused me just about every night of my young life over the course of 11 years. I can’t adequately describe the horror I felt at being forced to recount the details of oral rape to a roomful of strange men.
My father was remanded to a private psychiatric hospital after the court proceedings were over. I learned, years later, that his primary “treatment” was electroshock therapy. I imagine the doctors told themselves that incest is the result of a brain disease and the way to cure it was to electrocute the brain of the perpetrator. They pronounced him fixed, (or else my grandfather ran out of money to pay the hospital bills) sent him back to my house, and he promptly began to abuse me and every little girl in the vicinity. Whatever ability his forebrain might have had to assist in controlling his behavior was burned away by the electric shocks. But he was able to keep fooling people that he had recovered, so I guess the dose was not high enough to render him harmless.
When I was 31 I convinced my boyfriend at the time, who was a novice lawyer, to file a civil suit against my father. His name was Alan David Rosenfeld, pictured here at the left.
HERE is a link to an article that was published in The New York Times in April 1985. Some of the facts that were reported are a little garbled, but the main idea is that three years was an absurd amount of time to be able to recover sufficiently from the terrorism that is child sex abuse in order to be able to confront the abuser in court.
THIS is a copy of the decision by the court, which affirms that the statute of limitations is an absolute bar to my being able to bring suit against my attacker.
THIS article says :
Nov. 10, 1986 11:38 PM ET
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ A federal judge has ruled that the statute of limitations had run out and dismissed a $600,000 lawsuit filed by an incest victim against her father.
U.S. District Judge John T. Elfvin on Monday threw out Jeanne Allyn’s 1985 lawsuit against Franklin K. Smith. Elfvin said Ms. Allyn, 33, of Plainfield, Vt., had until age 21 to sue for any alleged injuries suffered as a child.
He rejected her claim that the alleged abuse caused a psychological disorder that prevented her from suing within the legal time limit. Ms. Allyn would have known by the time she was 18 that ”wrongs had been committed,” Elfvin said.
The alleged sexual acts ended nearly 20 years before Ms. Allyn sued, according to court documents.
Alan Rosenfeld, Ms. Allyn’s attorney, said it would be up to his client whether to appeal. ”Obviously I’m disappointed,” he said. ”I certainly still hope she intends to appeal. I’m still committed to arguing the case as far as necessary.”
Smith, 59, of Clarence Center, N.Y., confessed to molesting his daughter when a complaint was filed against him in 1963 in Tonawanda, N.Y., but was never prosecuted, Rosenfeld said.
The judge ruled that there was no indication that Smith either hid the wrongs or deceived his daughter in a way that prevented her from understanding, after she reached 18, that a wrong was committed.
”I’m very happy, obviously,” said Smith’s attorney, Anthony C. Ben, although he added he expected Ms. Allyn to appeal.
Rosenfeld had argued that Smith deprived his daughter of her ability to make decisions through a pattern of intimidation and abuse, indoctrinating her to believe she was bad, she must not tell and that no one would believe her.
This is an article from Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development, which discusses the case: The Convergence Between Illusion and Reality: Lifting the Veil of Secrecy Around Childhood Sexual Abuse:
To many victims, ours is a society that hears but does not believe, that believes but does not care. Through devices such as silencing and denial, our stories are denied as part of what society perceives as right and wrong.’ One of the most horrible truths often denied by society is the existence of childhood sexual abuse. Part of this denial can be attributed to the social barriers which prevent people from speaking of the home as anything but a sanctuary. Although an illusion exists of the home as an ideal place for children, the reality is that often the home is not a safe place for children. By the age of eighteen, 25% of girls will have experienced sexual abuse; many in their home by a family member.’ As is the case with most sex offenses, the majority of victims are female children and the over-whelming majority of the abusers are male adults.” Threats from the abuser, along with the fear of breaking the family apart, force many victims to remain silent for years. A large number of victims repress all memories of the abuse and do not remember the harm until an event in adulthood, such as marriage, death of the abuser, birth of a child, or psychotherapy, triggers recall of these memories. In addition, many victims who have a recollection of the abuse fail to understand the causal connection between the abuse and the frequently resulting psychological problems.5 Unfortunately, when they finally remember the past abuse and are willing and able to speak up, the law silences them once again. For example, before sexual abuse victims may be eligible for crime victims compensation, a police report must be filed. Furthermore, any civil action they bring against their abuser will most likely be time-barred by the statute of limitations.”
HERE is another report that appeared in The Gainesville Sun.
THIS is a copy of an article that appeared in The Weekly World. (The sensationalism around the issue was awful.)
Statute of limitations on sex crimes extended
Previously, Vermont law required prosecution of certain crimes of sexual violence against a child to happen by the time the victim turns 24, or within ten years of the crime, whichever is earlier. This timeframe did not reflect the nature of the crime. Children don’t report sexual violence for many reasons, including threats by their abuser, confusion about the nature of the crime; a belief that they will not be believed, or they simply don’t remember or understand what happened until well into adulthood. Perpetrators are known to target victims who seem most unlikely to report, and so the old statute of limitations didn’t fit the crime. The law passed this year extends the statute of limitations for reporting sexual assault of a child, sexual exploitation of a minor, and lewd or lascivious conduct with a child to 40 years after the crime’s occurrence.
And that was kind of the point of putting myself (and my own children, who had to cope with the fallout) through all of that suffering – that I would be able to make some small change in the psychopathic, misogynistic system of laws that we inherited, that I could improve the lot of other victims of intimate violence.