"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.
Monday, May 20 2013 4:52 AM EDT2013-05-20 08:52:37 GMT
The Paramount Theater in Rutland, is looking at diversifying their shows, and the city may help cover the costs. The theater is in the works of purchasing a high-definition projector and other equipmentMore >>
The Paramount Theater in Rutland, is looking at diversifying their shows, and the city may help cover the costs.More >>
Monday, May 20 2013 4:49 AM EDT2013-05-20 08:49:35 GMT
Governor Peter Shumlin will sign Vermont's new end of life legislation into law Monday, nearly 10 years after advocates started their push. Once signed, the law takes effect immediately. Several VermontMore >>
Governor Peter Shumlin will sign Vermont's new end of life legislation into law Monday, nearly 10 years after advocates started their push.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:39 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:39:09 GMT
"Awesome -- I lost it when I finished I have to say, but it was great. It was great," said Amy Sullivan. The 2013 Boston Marathon runner was all smiles as she and 450 other runners crossed the finishMore >>
A race in southern Vermont Sunday gave runners who were unable to finish the Boston Marathon a second chance at the finish line.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:38 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:38:13 GMT
They come from all over the state and wait in line for hours. "It's become sort of a yearly event for us. We've been doing it for eight or nine years now -- we're having a blast," said Ed Sayers ofMore >>
Dozens of drivers gathered in Chelsea for a record setting road rally -- full of riddles that keep drivers and passengers on their toes.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:36 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:36:52 GMT
College graduation season is in full swing -- and Sunday in Burlington it was a big one. A crowd of nearly 10,000 attended the 211th commencement ceremony at the University of Vermont.In all, more thanMore >>
A crowd of nearly 10,000 attended the 211th commencement ceremony at the University of Vermont.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:28 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:28:28 GMT
Fire destroyed a barn in Clinton County, New York Sunday morning.It happened in the town of Mooers. Officials say the barn on Eddy Road was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived just before 11:30More >>
Officials say the barn on Eddy Road was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived just before 11:30 a.m.More >>
Sunday, May 19 2013 8:27 PM EDT2013-05-20 00:27:13 GMT
A Berlin, New Hampshire man is dead following a kayaking accident.It happened on a stretch of the Upper Ammonoosuc River in the town of Dummer. Officials say Keith Whitten, 58, was paddling with his wifeMore >>
A Berlin, New Hampshire man is dead following a kayaking accident.More >>