Recalling painful memories of crimes that occurred years ago, survivors and their family members asked lawmakers to do away with the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse and to increase penalties for certain types of rape.
Second Barnstable Rep. Brian Mannal (D) said he had received threats of rape and murder because of some pieces of legislation he filed "in the interest of fairness and justice" and because he does not believe in a "cookie cutter approach to sentencing."
A defense attorney, Mannal said he would not benefit "in any way" from the legislation, including a bill (H 1490) that would make GPS tracking devices an optional parole requirement and another bill (H 1491) that would require the sex offender board to inform offenders of their right to counsel in reclassification hearings.
A disabled woman's silence
"I think it's my fault because I didn't scream or yell for help. I had Lifeline and I didn't push the button. I was frozen, numb. I couldn't speak. Why didn't I yell? What could I have done to stop him? Why did it hurt so much?" Lisa Flint, of North Attleborough, a woman whose speech and movements are limited by cerebral palsy and who was raped in college, told lawmakers. She said, "This is what my world has been like since May 15, 2000. I ache for some kind of peace within. I have something he wasn't powerful enough to take and that is hope. I hope someday I can make a difference for someone else."
Accompanying Flint before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Rep. Elizabeth Poirier (R-North Attleborough) said she has known Flint since she was a child and said her rapist was sentenced to 20 years, making him eligible for release after 15. Poirier and Flint support legislation (H 1568) that would allow for life sentences for those convicted of raping people with disabilities.
"It is an aggravating circumstance, and should be recognized as such under the law," Poirier said.
Rape victims get lifelong "prison sentences"
Others testified that they were victims of rape at a young age, and their lives since then have been akin to prison sentences, with no possibility of release.
"There are days when I look up at the sky and I say how much longer," said Kelly Quinn, who runs the organization Strong and Supported. Quinn's voice quavered as she testified that the violent rape she experienced as a child had "destroyed every facet of my life." She said, "I ask, 'How much longer do I have to endure this existence?"
The Judiciary Committee also heard testimony from those seeking to extend or do away with the statute of limitations for child sex abuse, laws that prevent people from bringing criminal charges or civil lawsuits after a certain period of time.
Extend statute of limitations for child sex abuse
Last summer, both branches advanced legislation extending the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse from the time the victim is age 21 up until the criminal statute of limitations, until the time when a victim turns 43.
For John F. MacPherson, the only justice he delivered was a punch to the man who he said he had attacked his daughter. MacPherson told lawmakers he returned to his Dorchester home after visiting his wife in the hospital and found a priest from his local parish on top of his daughter.
"I cold cocked him so hard," said MacPherson, who said he and his daughter years later attempted to take up the case in criminal and civil courts. He said, "I wish to God that day I did call 911 instead of letting it ride."
Give "power to the people"
"These bills are about giving power to people who had no power when they were young," said Roderick MacLeish, an attorney who said he had deposed Cardinal Bernard Law and said he was sexually abused while at a school in England.
The committee heard several proposals to change how the Sex Offender Registry Board is operated, how sex offenders are treated by the board and how easily the board should disseminate information to the public and early education professionals.
"For too long the right to privacy has been used as a tool of predation," said Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) who proposed several bills. The criminal case against John Burbine, a Wakefield man accused of multiple child sex abuse crimes, led many lawmakers to file legislation adjusting the operation of the sex offender registry, which had him listed as a level one offender, unlikely to re-offend.
Rep. Tackey Chan (D-Quincy) proposed a bill (H 1252) that would include a sex offender's Facebook account and other online aliases along with the home address that is already required.
Rep. Keiko Orrall (R-Lakeville) spoke in favor of legislation (H 1544) that she said would bar parental rights to a rapist when a child is born as a result of rape.