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Bill Cosby and the FMSF, Redux

With so much attention on the jury that deadlocked today in the Bill Cosby case, many people are asking why prosecutors in other states have not been able to bring charges in connection with any of the now 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault. The answer is that many states still have statutes of limitation that protect people like Bill Cosby.  On a day when the case for extending statutes of limitation is so clear, we would all do well to remember who lobbied against extending the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania.

When the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from victims of sexual abuse in 1994, there was one witness who testified in opposition: Pamela Freyd of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Mrs. Freyd expressed the concern that extending the statute of limitations “may create more tarnished reputations” (Senate Judiciary Committee, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; May 24, 1994, p. 5). She urged the committee to amend the bill to “encourage and emphasize alternative means of resolving these matters other than courts” (Id., p. 7). We now know how well “alternative means” worked for children who were abused by Jerry Sandusky and for those abused under the supervision of the Catholic Church. We also know that justice would never have been done in those cases if Mrs. Freyd’s position had prevailed.

The simple fact is that the FMSF, through Pamela Freyd, lobbied against legislative changes that would increase accountability, fairness and public safety around child sexual abuse. Instead, they were more worried about the possibility of “tarnished reputations.” The New York Times published an editorial encouraging all states to join the 16 states that have eliminated the statute of limitations for sexual assault.  As Jill Filipovic pointed out, statutes of limitation for rape “undermine justice for survivors.” The editorial board of USA Today endorsed that position today

But Pamela Freyd’s view is that women like Barbara Bowman, who came to terms with her trauma years after it happened, should not be allowed to pursue justice. Bowman is one of the women the Cosby jury did not hear from:

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