Below is a statement of opposition to a Nebraska bill that eliminates all statutes of limitations on civil lawsuits against people accused of sex crimes. You may find it useful against similar statutes in other states.
STATEMENT OF OPPOSITION TO NE LB 300 (2017)
Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com, Anti-Registry Movement Activist
I, Derek Warren Logue, anti-registry activist and founder of the legal information and support site OnceFallen.com, am writing to you this day this statement of opposition to LB 300.
Current state law has already been expanded to allow charges and civil suits against alleged sex crimes that may or may not have actually happened decades ago, and even these previous extensions of statutes of limitations are problematic.
I’d like to direct your attention to the fact that we are still recovering from the belief of an entire generation of people of widespread satanic ritual abuse and the now widely debunked hypothesis of “recovered” or “repressed” memories. This belief began largely as the result of a single book published in 1980 called “Michelle Remembers,” and has been thoroughly discredited by a number of experts over the years.
There are a number of cases we can discuss about this era—McMartin, Fells Acres, Country Walk, even the West Memphis Three—but none of these should strike closer to home than the Franklin child prostitution sex ring allegations right here in Nebraska between 1988 and 1991. As in other cases of the time, there were allegations of satanic ritual sexual abuse and murder of children, and like many of these other allegations were eventually proven false. However, given the climate at the time, I can understand why even this very legislature was led to believe in the truthfulness at the time. The slogan “believe the children always” is sacred dogma in our culture. Already, we’ve forgotten the lessons we had learned from this sad era in our culture.
It is time that we recover the lessons that we’ve seemingly repressed from this era. I was a child of that era—the era of Satanic abuse stories, made for TV movies, and the formation of the victim industry. Over the years, this industry has become as powerful as any religion, with beliefs and dogmas that few dare question. It was at this time that the myth of “repressed memories” originated. Books like Beverly Engel’s 1989 book “The Right To Innocence” taught, “If you have ever had reason to suspect that you may have been sexually abused, even if you have no explicit memory of it, chances are very high that you were.” [p.2]. Thanks to the belief of recovered or repressed memories, numerous people were led to believe that a myriad of psychological issues or poor personal life choices were the result of sexual abuse. If you’re depressed, you were likely sexually abused, if you drink too much, you were likely abused, if you stink at your job, you were likely sexually abused, and so on. It certainly helps to have a way to deny personal responsibility when your shortcomings in life are the result of your own actions.
Meredith Maran described her own false belief that she was sexually abused in her 2010 book, “My Lie: A True Story of False Memory.” Maran was a feminist reporter covering sexual abuse and repressed memories. After listening to others who claimed they had experienced “recovered memories” and after reading the book “The Courage to Heal,” Maran led herself to believe she was sexually abused by her father. But as the climate in America changed as we learned that these stories of satanic ritual abuse across America were false, Maran also concluded that our panicked culture had been the reason she believed she was abused.
By the mid-1990s, we had concluded that repressed memory was a myth and the satanic ritual abuse allegations were false. Even Diana EH Russell, author of “The Secret Trauma,” one of the bibles of the repressed memory myth, had to admit that there was validity to the claims of those who stated they were falsely led to believe in the abuse. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation [http://www.fmsfonline.org/] warns us, “Because of the reconstructive nature of memory, some memories may be distorted through influences such as the incorporation of new information. There are also believed-in imaginings that are not based in historical reality; these have been called false memories, pseudo-memories and memory illusions. They can result from the influence of external factors, such as the opinion of an authority figure or information repeated in the culture. An individual with an internal desire to please, to get better or to conform can easily be affected by such influences.”
Memory is far from fallible, and even when we remember significant events, we may not remember things exactly as it happened, which is especially problematic in court trials where eyewitness testimony is utilized [http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/idea-happened-memory-recollection]. Studies have shown that eyewitness testimony can be rather easily manipulated just by how the questions are asked [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PB2OegI6wvI]. These leading questions were at the heart of the satanic ritual abuse panics of the 1980s.
Our brains are not computers; neuroscientists have shown that each time we remember something, we are reconstructing the event, reassembling it from traces throughout the brain. In other words, memory is malleable. “We could say that, as a result, memory is unreliable. We could also say it is adaptive, reshaping itself to accommodate the new situations we find ourselves facing. Either way, we have to face the fact that it is “flexible.” For most of us that usually means we recall a rosier past than we actually had, though some of us are tormented by memories of a painful past we can’t shake and that seems to get worse every time we revisit them. But for all of us that means an incomplete past. Nothing brings this home better than the memories of witnesses in trials, one of the cornerstones of our legal system. All too many people have been put behind bars on the testimony of witnesses, who when challenged by more objective data have been later proved to be misremembering. An extreme form of this is the unsettling phenomenon of those who confess to crimes they did not commit. According to a recent article in The New York Times, “False confessions have figured in 24 percent of the approximately 289 convictions reversed by DNA evidence.” (See, “Why Do Innocent People Confess?”) Obviously these are not just simple matters of misremembering. False confessions can be motivated by a desire to avoid painful interrogations, to curry favor with jailors, or the false hope of getting the nightmare over with. But, then, all memories are motivated. It is just a matter of degree.”
“Human memory is notoriously unreliable, especially when it comes to details. Scientists have found that prompting an eyewitness to remember more can generate details that are outright false but that feel just as correct to the witness as actual memories. “A key rule about memory change over time is what we call fade-to-gist,” explained Dr. Charles Brainerd, a professor of human development at Cornell University, in an interview with Healthline. “That is, we lose the details of experience rapidly but retain our understanding of its gist much longer. After attending a baseball game, we may quickly forget what the score was, who pitched, and what we had to eat, but not that our team won and we had a fun evening.” According to the American Bar Association, of the 21 wrongful convictions overturned by the Innocence Project in 2011, 19 involved eyewitness testimony. More than three-quarters of wrongful convictions that are later overturned by DNA evidence were based on eyewitness reports. The legal system finally acknowledged this problem last year, when the New Jersey Supreme Court instructed judges to tell jurors that “human memory is not foolproof” when considering eyewitness testimony in a case. [http://www.healthline.com/health-news/mental-memory-is-unreliable-and-it-could-be-worse-091313]
Yet, despite the lessons we’ve learned memories are far from infallible and that people can be led to believe things that weren’t true, we have been led to believe the same exact accusations once the attention was turned to the Catholic Church. Diane Vera reported in 2006 that even in 2005, a Catholic priest was convicted in 2005 on the basis of “recovered memories” alone. She also points out, “Among the people still pushing the SRA scare are some conservative and traditionalist Catholics, as a way to explain the recent clergy pedophilia scandals…Some of the more extreme traditionalist Catholics blame an alleged conspiracy of "Satanists" not only for clergy pedophilia, but also for all the changes to the Catholic Church since Vatican II, including changes to the liturgy and more tolerant attitudes toward Protestants.” (Of course, Vera assumes a celibate priesthood is the problem, which is also a matter of opinion.)
Famed historian Phillip Jenkins writes, “We have often heard the phrase "pedophile priest" in recent weeks. Such individuals can exist: Father Geoghan was one, as was the notorious Father James Porter a decade or so back. But as a description of a social problem, the term is wildly misleading. Crucially, Catholic priests and other clergy have nothing like a monopoly on sexual misconduct with minors. My research of cases over the past 20 years indicates no evidence whatever that Catholic or other celibate clergy are any more likely to be involved in misconduct or abuse than clergy of any other denomination -- or indeed, than nonclergy. However determined news media may be to see this affair as a crisis of celibacy, the charge is just unsupported…Just to find some solid numbers, how many Catholic clergy are involved in misconduct? We actually have some good information on this issue, since in the early 1990s, the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago undertook a bold and thorough self-study. The survey examined every priest who had served in the archdiocese over the previous 40 years, some 2,200 individuals, and reopened every internal complaint ever made against these men. The standard of evidence applied was not legal proof that would stand up in a court of law, but just the consensus that a particular charge was probably justified.
By this low standard, the survey found that about 40 priests, about 1.8 percent of the whole, were probably guilty of misconduct with minors at some point in their careers. Put another way, no evidence existed against about 98 percent of parish clergy, the overwhelming majority of the group. Since other organizations dealing with children have not undertaken such comprehensive studies, we have no idea whether the Catholic figure is better or worse than the rate for schoolteachers, residential home counselors, social workers or scout masters. The Chicago study also found that of the 2,200 priests, just one was a pedophile. Now, many people are confused about the distinction between a pedophile and a person guilty of sex with a minor. The difference is very significant. The phrase "pedophile priests" conjures up images of the worst violation of innocence, callous molesters like Father Porter who assault children 7 years old. "Pedophilia" is a psychiatric term meaning sexual interest in children below the age of puberty. But the vast majority of clergy misconduct cases are nothing like this. The vast majority of instances involve priests who have been sexually active with a person below the age of sexual consent, often 16 or 17 years old, or even older. An act of this sort is wrong on multiple counts: It is probably criminal, and by common consent it is immoral and sinful; yet it does not have the utterly ruthless, exploitative character of child molestation. In almost all cases too, with the older teen-agers, there is an element of consent.” [http://old.post-gazette.com/forum/comm/20020303edjenk03p6.asp]
The point of discussing the issue of faulty memories is that people could easily be misled into using LB 300; even worse is the possibility of individuals taking improper use of this system. After all, accusations of abuse from 20 years, 30 years, 40 years ago or longer could not be substantiated. Recently, it was reported that Barbara Blaine, founder and president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, had stepped down amidst allegations that SNAP leaders referred potential clients to attorneys in return for financial kickbacks to the group. [http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-snap-barbara-blaine-resignation-20170204-story.html] We don’t like to admit that the victim groups have a vested interest but they do.
These dubious allegations form the justification for LB 300. In passing this legislation, you open the door to abuse of the law by manipulative individuals and victim advocates. Imagine someone decided to accuse YOU of an alleged sex crime from 30 years ago and decided to sue you in a court of law. Consider the fact that the number of false allegations is significant [http://www.oncefallen.com/falseallegations.html] even in a court where the standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” LB 300’ standards are the lower civil standard. If we were willing to believe the most outrageous allegations of satanic sacrifices, flying children across the globe for Illuminati pedo rings, or non-existent underground bunkers either under a daycare or under some pizza joint in Washington DC without any tangible evidence of truth, what hope does the accused have to prove his or her innocence In a court where the burden of proof is far lower?
LB 300 will merely be a tool to destroy the lives of numerous citizens by those who are convinced of events that may never have occurred, and will be fueled by victim groups like SNAP who are willing to engage in their own dubious practices to promote their personal agendas. We are too willing as a society to side with the accusers, no matter how dubious the claims, and those who falsely accuse are rarely punished for fear of “silencing victims.” LB 300 is bad public policy better left in Reagan-era satanic panic.
--Derek W. Logue of OnceFallen.com