Former student at Faribault's Shattuck speaks out in support of Minnesota Child Victims Act - Faribault MN: News

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Former student at Faribault's Shattuck speaks out in support of Minnesota Child Victims Act

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Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013 5:00 pm | Updated: 4:09 pm, Fri Apr 19, 2013.

The man previously only identified as “Joel” in a story about alleged sex abuse at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in 1980 has now found a reason to come forward more publicly.

Joel Juers was just 14 years old when he says he was sexually abused by now former S-SM teacher Joseph Machlitt. He didn’t tell police until last fall, when he said he realized Machlitt was recently employed as a tutor for Hispanic students in Edina.

Now at the age of 47, Juers has no chance for justice against his alleged abuser. Criminal charges were dropped earlier this month because the statute of limitations had expired.

But a bill moving through the Minnesota House and Senate could give Juers and others who say they were the victims of sexual abuse new hope. Called the Minnesota Child Victims Act, it would allow anyone who was sexually abused as a child to bring a civil lawsuit at any time against his or her abuser or the institution that facilitated the abuse — no matter how long ago it occurred.

Advocates like Juers say the new law would encourage victims of child sex abuse to come forward and potentially identify abusers who have never been caught and are still abusing children.

“Pedophiles don’t retire,” said Jeff Dion, deputy executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. “Even when it’s 30 years after the abuse, the perpetrator is still alive. Maybe they’re in a walker or a wheelchair, but they may still be molesting kids.”

Victims would still have to prove that the abuse occurred, but the new law would take away the arbitrary statute that Dion says perpetrators use as a shield to hide behind.

Minnesota law currently allows victims to file a lawsuit only until they are 24.

At that age, Juers was a sergeant in special operations with the Army. There was no room for weakness, and Juers said he was in no way ready to face the past.

Both the House and the Senate bill have cleared the required committees and are expected to go before a full vote in the next week or so. The bills face opposition from the Minnesota Religious Council.

Four states — Alaska, Delaware, Florida and Maine — have eliminated the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, allowing victims to seek justice at any time. The new law would give Juers the option to file suit, though he’s not sure he’d take it.

“At the age of 47 and as a Christian, I’m wrestling with grace and forgiveness,” he said. “Because of what he did to me, it is natural for me to want to seek retribution. Right now, I don’t have that option and that’s dis-empowering. If the law were to change, I think just to have the option would be a powerful thing.”

Alleged victims of accused former S-SM department chair Lynn Seibel would also be able to seek justice under the new law. None of the alleged victims has spoken out publicly, but based on court documents most of them are now at least 26 years of age.

Juers hopes he can raise awareness and increase support by sharing his story, though he admits he’s nervous about the attention and what others may think.

“For so many years I sat in dis-empowering shame, self-pity, solitude and loneliness,” Juers said. “Finally this is an opportunity to use those years of suffering for something that’s good. It’s for every victim of sex abuse that this opportunity is so powerful. If the bill passes, it would help them restore their lives. It would help them regain that power that was stolen from them as children.”

Visit www.victimsofcrime.org/mn-childvictimsact to learn more about the Minnesota Child Victims Act.

Reach reporter Rebecca Rodenborg at 333-3128, or follow her on Twitter.com @FDNRebecca

© 2015 Southernminn.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.

3 comments:

  • Joel Juers posted at 1:19 am on Sat, Apr 20, 2013.

    Joel Juers Posts: 1

    David, I'll give you some points; however, the inescapable reality is this: my offender committed a heinous sex crime against a child more than once and, up until he was charged last fall, had continued to work with children in an unsupervised setting. As Mr. Dion so succintly stated above, "Pedophiles don't retire."

    We're not talking about petty theft here. We're not talking about getting away with breaking and entering. We're talking about the theft of one's childhood, the destruction of innocence. We know for a fact that the long-term impacts of childhood sex abuse are grave and are inestimably expensive to the individual and to society. The civil SOL is an arbitrary barrier to a modicum of healing that might prevent some of those costs.

     
  • Special Ed posted at 9:25 am on Sat, Apr 13, 2013.

    Special Ed Posts: 1115

    David, does the statute apply to civil proceedings?

     
  • DavidGross posted at 8:21 am on Sat, Apr 13, 2013.

    DavidGross Posts: 370

    The Statute of Limitations has many very important and functional aspects to it involving, for example, getting on with life, instead of dwelling on the past. Practically, there are matters of the loss of evidence, loss of witnesses, and the very human availability of memory (recall, clarity, context, and the ability to relate). It's called "closure" in the real world; at some point, when there has been a reasonable opportunity to bring, and to defend, a claim which has not been seized, the matter is simply over.
    The idea of dwelling on the past, and this emphasis on being able to claim "victim" status, is simply morbid excuse-making, second-guessing, and an attempt to impose a hypothetical Utopian perfection on an imperfect reality. The public policy embodied in the Statute of Limitations is a practical accommodation to such an imperfect reality which is "fair" to both sides. Whether or not a self-proclaimed "victim" is "ready" to address the issues within the SOL is another reality which is recognized as, and becomes, a choice which an adult makes concerning one's life.
    The elimination of the Statute of Limitations is rife with, and creates opportunities for blackmail and other forms of extortion based on the mere making of, or threat to make, a claim where the fair opportunity to defend against it has been lost. The failure to look at both sides, here, is quite short-sighted and lacking perspective or objectivity. Labeling the Statute of limitations as "arbitrary" and something to "hide behind" simply misses the point, is myopic, even Narcissistic.
    With all due respect to people to those who are real victims, the world doesn't revolve around them or owe them everything. You have to participate in life and to "buy a ticket." That means doing something realistic to bring it to a head, to seek closure, within the time established in long experience, realistic practicality, and public policy which applies to everything and everybody, without a "special exception" or excuse just for you.
    If in fact the pedophiles don't retire, there is opportunity for the victims of the distant past to assist in putting that person away and obtaining current justice for the crimes and harm. The most recent example of that is the matter of the former Minneapolis Park Police Officer and Chief, William A. Jacobs, who is serving an 18-year sentence and who is being civilly sued by his most recent victim with the backing and help of the people who came forward to do so. Part of the healing which they went through, the moving on which they did, is the opportunity to help someone else to obtain justice without the expectation or hope of any personal compensation, which offers credibility to their testimony.
    Yes, the world is imperfect. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. But life goes on. That's the point of the Statute of Limitations.

     

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