"We don't have a statute of limitations on homicide," Jerry O'Neill said. "Why should we have one on child sex offenses?"
O'Neill is a former federal prosecutor who has also successfully sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington on behalf of 50 victims of child sex abuse. O'Neill says many victims don't come forward until well into their adulthood.
"They have not been able to for so many years because of the stigma, because of the relationship with the person, or simply because they felt a necessity to keep it a deep, dark secret," he said.
Under current law, Vermont victims must report child sex crimes before they're 24, or 10 years from the offense. After that, their abusers cannot be prosecuted.
"What the Victim's Network has to say is you cannot even report it. We can do nothing if you are past the age of 24," said Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham County.
Senators seeking a change gave preliminary approval to a bill Thursday that would allow child victims to report allegations of sex assault, lewd and lascivious conduct, and sexual exploitation until they're 40-years-old.
"Forty is not a magic number," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County.
But Sears-- who introduced the bill-- calls it a compromise between what's on the books and doing away with a time limit all together.
"As a criminal defense attorney I struggled with this particular issue," said Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia County.
Benning was the sole senator who voted against the measure in committee. He argues waiting until 40 opens the door to doubt.
"Chances are fairly good that their memory will be somewhat challenged by that length of time," Benning said.
"It's always more difficult to prosecute an older case," O'Neill said.
But O'Neill and other supporters say upping the age limit does not change the state's burden of proof in a criminal case.
"Remember that this does not guarantee that there will be any kind of prosecution because there will still be evidence that needs to be collected. There will still be a case that needs to be made," White said.
On Friday the Senate is expected to give the proposal final approval and hand it over to the House.
Tuesday, December 10 2013 10:50 PM EST2013-12-11 03:50:14 GMT
An Orleans woman was arrested after her boss allegedly caught her siphoning cash from the register at the Jay Country Store where she worked. Police say it took 21-year-old Miranda Chaput less than a weekMore >>
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Tuesday, December 10 2013 10:47 PM EST2013-12-11 03:47:29 GMT
Police say they've caught a University of Vermont student cashing in on prescription pills. 18-year-old Christian Devaul was arrested Monday after police say he was selling Xanax from his dorm room onMore >>
Police say they've caught a University of Vermont student cashing in on prescription pills.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 7:45 PM EST2013-12-11 00:45:37 GMT
"Today I am proud to launch Connect Vermont, an initiative to deliver by 2013 my promise of high-speed internet access and cell service to every corner of our state," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont,More >>
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Tuesday, December 10 2013 8:00 PM EST2013-12-11 01:00:14 GMT
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Vt. Gov. Peter Shumlin has been re-elected as the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 7:48 PM EST2013-12-11 00:48:09 GMT
Vermonters who didn't pay ticket prices of up to $10,000 to hear New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speak during an upcoming visit likely won't get to hear him via the media.More >>
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie will make a stop in Vermont Wednesday to address nearly 700 Republican Party members. The Essex Jct. event is sold out, but there aren't any media outlets on the guest list. Melissa Howell explains why.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 7:51 PM EST2013-12-11 00:51:05 GMT
When Vermont received an F from the Center For Public Integrity for financial disclosure requirements for state Supreme Court justices, it didn't ruffle too many feathers. "We weren't surprised by theMore >>
Vermont was one of many states that received a failing grade for what is required for financial disclosure for state Supreme Court justices. Some civil rights organizations say it's just a small part of an even bigger problem for the state.More >>