"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.
Friday, April 18 2014 12:04 AM EDT2014-04-18 04:04:40 GMT
A Putney man was taken to the hospital after police say he was run over in a driveway. It happened this afternoon on Kimball Hill Road. Investigators say 63-year-old Eric Ladd was walking slipped and hitMore >>
A Putney man was taken to the hospital after police say he was run over in a driveway. It happened this afternoon on Kimball Hill Road.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 12:00 AM EDT2014-04-18 04:00:59 GMT
Police are searching for clues after a homemade bottle bomb was found at a park in Keene New Hampshire. On Wednesday workers were doing spring clean-up at Wheelock park when they found a 55-gallon drumMore >>
Police are searching for clues after a homemade bottle bomb was found at a park in Keene New Hampshire.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:58 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:58:40 GMT
There's been a tragedy on the Burlington beltway Thursday night. Police confirm that a 24-year-old Winooski man was killed in a motorcycle crash that shutdown the beltway. The name has been releasedMore >>
Burlington Police confirm that a 24-year-old Winooski man was killed in a motorcycle crash that shutdown the beltline.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:08 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:08:04 GMT
Police say two people found dead at a home in Stowe are believed to have died in a murder-suicide. Police are still not releasing their names or the cause of death, but they say the victims are adults. StoweMore >>
A Stowe couple is dead after what police say was a murder-suicide. The news came as a shock to neighbors who say they never noticed any red flags. More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 6:58 PM EDT2014-04-17 22:58:26 GMT
A man charged with shooting his neighbor and two Vermont State Police officers was in court Thursday in Middlebury. Timothy Foley did appear in court Thursday in Middlebury. He wasn't there last time,More >>
A man charged with shooting his neighbor and two Vermont State Police officers was in court Thursday in Middlebury.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:26 AM EDT2014-04-17 15:26:34 GMT
A 79-year-old woman accused of causing the death of a motorcyclist in Vermont last year has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of careless or negligent operation and has received a suspended sentence of six to...More >>
A 79-year-old woman accused of causing the death of a motorcyclist in Vermont last year has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of careless or negligent operation and has received a suspended sentence of six to 12 months.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 12:05 PM EDT2014-04-17 16:05:16 GMT
A teenager has been arrested for making a bomb threat in St. Albans. Police say the threat was made to Project SOAR, an alternative school, Wednesday morning. The building was searched and no bomb wasMore >>
Police say a teenager has been arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat to an alternative school in St. Albans.More >>