The Government intends to extend the deadline for victims of sexual crimes in childhood to report the facts. This is reflected in the preliminary draft of the Organic Law for the Integral Protection of Children and Adolescents in the face of Violence approved this Friday by the Council of Ministers, as announced by Pedro Sánchez at the subsequent press conference. The proposal is for the statute of limitations to be extended and start counting when the victim reaches 30 years and not 18, as is currently the case. The idea is that it also be extended to other serious crimes against children such as attempted murder, habitual abuse and trafficking of human beings against minors.
Depending on the seriousness of the events, the statute of limitations for crimes of sexual violence against minors is between five and 15 years. This means that, at most, a victim can now denounce up to 33 years in the event that the crime of greater punishment has been committed against her – a sexual assault with penetration. However, most of the sexual crimes against children are touching and sexual abuse, which they prescribe at ten years. This makes the system prevent many victims from reporting their aggressor when they are ready and have managed to break the silence. With the change that the Executive seeks to materialize, victims of more serious crimes will have to denounce up to 45 years.
Children's organizations, including Save the Children, which is behind the bill along with other groups, have for years been demanding a change to end this barrier which, in practice, implies that a large part of this violence goes unpunished and the victims, in many cases of very young age when they were abused, never find justice through criminal proceedings.
The bill, which will have to follow its procedure and end in Congress, where the other political groups will present their amendments, comes after the vice president of the Government and Equality Minister, Carmen Calvo, moved last October to representatives of the Vatican the idea of the Executive to make "imprescriptibles" abuses against minors. Although this was one of the scenarios that were shuffled, next to the term began to count at age 50, finally the text reflects that it will be at 30.
The peculiarities of this type of crime, among them, the short age of the victims when the events take place and El Hierro silence that surrounds them, have forced the revision of the deadlines. It is a kind of violence, on the other hand, characterized by infradenunciation, according to the available scientific literature. In fact, experts and children's organizations estimate that only 15% of the cases that occur are reported. In spite of this, in 2017 a total of 3,041 complaints were filed for sexual assault or abuse against a minor, one every three hours, according to the figures provided by the Ministry of the Interior.
The child under 14 years will only declare once
The proposed draft law, which modifies eleven different laws, aims to "turn childhood into a collective good that deserves special protection," explains the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in a press release, and establishes a wide range of Violence, including sexual crimes, but not only. The norm aims to deal with all types of violence against children in an integral way. Thus, derived from the integral nature, the project includes measures of prevention, detection and intervention in different areas such as judicial, health or education.
With regard to criminal measures, in addition to incorporating the extension of limitation periods, the rule includes the tightening of compliance conditions for those convicted of this type of crime, who will not be able to access penitentiary permits or the third degree until that do not meet half the penalty. On the other hand, in all sexual and trafficking crimes, the conviction will entail the disqualification for any profession that involves direct contact with minors.
The text also includes a new catalog of crimes committed against minors through the Internet, including incitement to suicide, self-harm, the commission of crimes against freedom and sexual indemnity or the promotion or facilitation of eating disorders.
To combat the current situation that occurs in the courts, which leads to girls and boys who report sexual abuse have to declare, on average, four times in the procedure, according to calculates Save the Children, the proposal contains the obligatory nature of the test pre-constituted when the complainant is less than 14 years old. That is, the child's testimony will be recorded once at the beginning of the process and will not have to re-declare "except exceptional situations," clarifies the press release. The magistrates will also have to be formed initially and continuously in the area of rights in childhood and violence.
On the other hand, in the field of education, it is established that schools must have protocols against all types of violence against children and with a figure called "welfare and protection", which will be responsible for applying, supervising and coordinate these protocols. In addition, the State Security Forces of the autonomous communities will have units specialized in violence against minors and measures will be taken to prevent their revictimization.