25 Investigates

25 Investigates: Renewed push on Beacon Hill to pass sex abuse prevention bills in limbo for decades

BOSTON — 25 Investigates’ reporting cited on Beacon Hill Tuesday as lawmakers and advocates push to pass a bevy of bills aimed at preventing child sex abuse in Massachusetts.

Our months of reporting on sex abuse in public schools were front and center during a legislative briefing calling for change.

“You either stand with children and survivors and justice. Or you don’t,” said Kathryn Rob, the National Director of the Children’s Justice Campaign, Enough Abuse.

Advocates and lawmakers once again coming together in their battle to prevent child sex abuse in the state. Many are fed up.

“You take legislative session after legislative session after legislative session not to do anything,” Robb said. “20 years, it’s time to make a change.”

Some in the room on Tuesday have been fighting to enact child abuse prevention bills for two decades and say Massachusetts is failing to keep up with important changes made in most other states.

For the last 12 months, 25 Investigates has not only documented cases of child sex abuse in Massachusetts public schools but the loopholes in the laws that seem to protect child predators. 25 Investigates reporting even cited during the legislative briefing.

“The information that, channel 25 Investigates came up with, was very compelling. And it continued to fuel those of us who are doing child advocacy work, to make sure that we get to the finish line this year,” said Jetta Bernier, Executive Director of MassKids and Enough Abuse.

“This is about preventing child sexual abuse. I don’t want to see any more victims,” said State Senator Joan Lovely. “I don’t want to see anybody else harmed.”

Lovely is not only the Assistant Majority Leader in the Massachusetts state senate, she’s also a survivor of child sexual abuse.

This session alone, Lovely has filed 7 pieces of legislation aimed at curbing child sex abuse; including one to eliminate the statute of limitations on reporting abuse. Right now, it’s age 53 in mass. The ‘Shield Act’ would require all youth serving organizations have clear abuse prevention polices in place. There’s one to require school districts to inquire with past employers about prior allegations of sexual misconduct before hiring someone. And, finally closing the age of consent loophole, criminalizing anyone in a position of trust and authority who has a sexual relationship with someone under the age of 19 or 22 for a person with special needs.

Currently, a sixteen-year-old in Massachusetts can legally consent to sexual intercourse.

25 Investigates brought the question around inaction on this issue to legislative leadership last fall.

Senate President Karen Spilka said lawmakers would take a good look at the proposed bills.

“We’re all very serious about this and we’re trying to make the difference in this term,” Lovely said.

The session officially ends July 31st. 25 Investigates will follow them and let you know if any of the sex abuse prevention bills gets to the floor for a full vote.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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