N-VA advocates abolition of statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors

25 September 2019

The N-VA and sp.a are joining forces to abolish the statute of limitations for serious sexual abuse of minors. “Child abuse is the perfect example of a crime that only comes to light often decades later because for many victims - who were by definition just children when they suffered the crime - it can take a very long time before they can speak up. In part as a result of the statute of limitations, too many perpetrators are getting off scot free and they also feel that they are above the law,” says the N-VA, which is submitting the proposal together with sp.a. “And for us, that makes it a crime that must not be subject to the statute of limitations, out of respect for the many victims who remain silent to this very day, and also to prevent it from keeping on happening.” The N-VA is calling on the other parties to support the proposal. “This is not the place to play party politics; this is something that we can achieve under this caretaker government. Let that be our goal.”

Hidden stories

Currently, serious sexual abuses committed against minors come up against the statute of limitations 15 years after the victim reaches the age of majority. The statute of limitations concept exists for two main reasons: it gives the perpetrator the right to be forgotten and it was also introduced because the passing of a certain amount of time makes it difficult to submit adequate and reliable evidence. “But in the case of child abuse, we see that due to the power that a child abuser wields over his or her victim, often years will pass before someone dares to speak out. This, together with the current statute of limitations, naturally makes it difficult to present a convincing burden of proof. And yet we want to give victims the right at least to find out whether a court case still has a chance of succeeding. All the more so because the perpetrator often has more than one victim. The feeling among perpetrators today that they are above the law often ends up with them acting ever more extremely. We are not even close to seeing the end of this festering wound. There are still so many hidden stories,” the N-VA explains.

Perpetrators must never again be able to sleep easy

The abolition of the statute of limitations would apply not only to crimes that were committed on or after the date of coming into force of the law, but also to crimes that had not yet come up against their statute of limitations at that moment. “We do however want to emphasise that it remains as important as ever for victims to speak out and seek justice as quickly as possible,” the N-VA says. “Because getting help as quickly as possible can alleviate a lot of suffering and also because a court case has a greater chance of succeeding if the facts are still recent. To this end too, we want to take extra initiatives by for example lowering the threshold to enter care centres even further so that the chance of proving the crime is increased. But the abolition of the statute of limitations is a cornerstone that is just as important. For us, anybody with child abuse on their conscience must never again be able to sleep easy.”

Important signal to victims

In the Netherlands, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of children was abolished many years ago already. That took place in a wider context, but there was a good reason for child abuse being the motivating factor there too. “The argument in the Netherlands too was that a person who is sexually abused as a child often needs a very long process of coming to terms with what happened. Victims often only understand many years later what exactly was done to them, and often need even more time to come forward with their abuse. When victims are ready to start legal proceedings, but can no longer do so because the facts have come up against the statute of limitations, that is devastating for them. They are confronted with the fact that the perpetrator of the abuse they suffered, despite the availability of proof, will never be punished. Let the abolition of the statute of limitations also be an important signal to the victims. We recognise the suffering that a victim experiences for his or her whole life, and in this way the taboo around it can finally be demolished. This is why we hope that we can send out one and the same signal across party lines,” the N-VA concludes.

How valuable did you find this article?

Enter your personal score here
The average score is