There should be no statute of limitations for sexual abuse

I like Elmo as much as anyone else, but Kevin Clash was not "cleared of sexual abuse claims" as some in the media have stated ("3 sex-abuse suits against Clash, Elmo's voice, tossed," July 2). He was not exonerated or proven not guilty. The plaintiffs did not recant. The cases were dismissed in New York because the statute of limitations for civil damages in cases of sexual abuse of a minor must be brought within five years of the sexual offense.

In New York, if someone doesn't heal enough within five years to be ready to identify their experience as abuse, understand its impact, realize they are not at fault, dissolve the shame they carry, feel their anger, find an attorney, and be prepared to confront their perpetrator and his or her attorney in public, they are denied their day in court. They've lost their chance to speak their truth and hold the perpetrator accountable. There's something very wrong with this picture. Not only are victims abused by perpetrators, they are also abused by the legal system.

It's time to stop protecting perpetrators. It's time to support victims of sexual abuse. As a psychologist, I know it can take 30 years or more before someone is ready to face the terror of their abuse, let alone decide to go to court. Maryland should change its statute of limitations so that victims over 28 years of age have the opportunity to have their day in court. Everyone who genuinely cares about abused children (and the adults they become) should want that. I bet Elmo would want it that way.

Emily Samuelson, Towson

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