At 16 years old, Terry Mitchell had no idea that her life was about to be changed forever the day she went jogging in the park with two of her friends. Before their run was over, her friends were murdered; she was shot and left for dead, and then became the star witness in a murder trial.
As if this was not devastating enough, during the countless hours of preparing her to testify, the federal prosecutor took her to his hotel room where he repeatedly sexually abused her. He told her that if his sexual acts with her ever got out, the callous murderer who shot her would go free on a mistrial. It’s impossible to imagine the fear and trauma this caused to this young 16-year-old girl.
It seems almost every day there is another heartbreaking story about a child being sexually abused. Statistically it is reported that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before they turn 18 years of age. This is tragically unacceptable!
Fortunately, because of bills like HB277 (2015) and HB279 (2016), that I passed here in Utah, survivors of childhood sexual abuse are no longer limited artificially by time to bring the perpetrators of these heinous acts to justice. These bills eliminated the statute of limitations, and revived previously time barred claims, for sexual abuse of children.
Prior to HB277 and HB279, victims of childhood sexual abuse had four years from the time they turned 18 to bring a claim of childhood sexual abuse. We now know that this time limit was impossibly short for children who are conditioned through threats, fear and shame to remain silent – told by their predators, who are most often trusted adults in the lives, that “It’s bad to tell.” Watch this.
Terry remained silent and terrified for years, convinced that no one would ever believe her. Many years later (after the unrealistically short four year statute of limitations had lapsed), Terry was finally able, as an adult, to face the shame and doubt of coming forward. The bills I passed give Terry the right to have her day in court against this abusive federal prosecutor later turned federal judge, and to let society know the danger of having this man on the federal bench.
This judge was recorded by phone admitting he had sex with his 16-year old star witness. He resigned from the bench the very day Terry’s complaint was filed. However, he is now challenging the laws I passed to protect childhood victims of sexual abuse. Terry’s case is defending these laws that afford the right for thousands of silenced victims of childhood sexual abuse to seek redress and hold sexual predators accountable so that other children may not be abused.
Thank heaven for Terry Mitchell who is courageously standing up so that other victims might take courage, and other would-be perpetrators might realize there is no “where” and no “when” to hide.