"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 11:41 AM EST2013-12-10 16:41:55 GMT
St. Albans police are on the hunt for an armed robber who targeted a convenience store. Police say at about 9:45 p.m. Monday, a man entered the South Main Grocery and displayed a weapon. He left the storeMore >>
St. Albans police are on the hunt for an armed robber who targeted a convenience store.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 12:57 PM EST2013-12-10 17:57:59 GMT
Police in Essex say they caught a repeat drunk driver who was trying to drive his car with a flat tire. Michael Heffernan, 52, of Bristol, was processed for his sixth DUI offense. Police say before theyMore >>
Police in Essex say they caught a repeat drunk driver who was trying to drive his car with a flat tire.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 9:40 AM EST2013-12-10 14:40:06 GMT
A former New Hampshire police chief will not face criminal charges. David Seastrand resigned in April after four women came forward and accused him of inappropriate actions ranging from sexual contactMore >>
A former New Hampshire police chief will not face criminal charges.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 1:13 PM EST2013-12-10 18:13:54 GMT
Burlington police on Tuesday released the name of a man killed Monday in a crash on the Beltline. Police say Gregory Burt, 56, of Colchester, was driving north when he crossed into the path of a southboundMore >>
Burlington police on Tuesday released the name of a man killed Monday in a crash on the Beltline.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 1:52 PM EST2013-12-10 18:52:58 GMT
Former Vt. Gov. Jim Douglas had a run-in with a deer on Interstate 89 Saturday. Vermont State Police say Douglas was headed north on the interstate in Colchester shortly before 6 p.m. when he hit the deer. TheMore >>
Former Vt. Gov. Jim Douglas had a run-in with a deer on Interstate 89 Saturday. He was not injured.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 9:42 AM EST2013-12-10 14:42:57 GMT
A non-profit group has donated close to $23,000 worth of protective vests to police dogs in Vermont and New Hampshire. The special vests provide two dozen police dogs protection from both bullet and stabMore >>
A nonprofit group has donated close to $23,000 worth of protective vests to police dogs in Vermont and New Hampshire.More >>