also created a publicly-accessible database of criminals that allows people to see criminals in their
own neighborhood.205 Legislatures have seen the positive impact that these registries have on
individual citizens’ feelings of safety, but it is important to look at the effect these types of
registrations have on communities as a whole.
Although the first wave of reforms between 1994 and 2006 is popular among citizens
who feel more empowered by the laws’ registration and notification elements, the requirements
have had unforeseen consequences for convicted offenders and have not been as effective as
policymakers had hoped.206 Unfortunately, this wave of reforms focuses solely on offenders who
are already known to the criminal justice system, allowing those who remain anonymous to
continue victimizing children.207 Additionally, these laws focused “on a small, atypical group of
[child sex abuse] offenders without providing meaningful relief to victims.”208 Victims today face
a multitude of statutory barriers to finding relief in the justice system, which is what the second
wave of reforms seeks to address.
IV. SECOND WAVE OF REFORMS: “OPENING THE COURTHOUSE DOORS”209
Although the goal of the first wave of legislation was to protect children from child sex
offenders, children who have already experienced child sexual abuse often face many legal
obstacles when trying to bring a claim to court. Most child victims who pursue legal action
against their abusers through civil lawsuits do so because the criminal justice system has been
unable to offer them relief.210 The complexity in the criminal justice system lies in the ability of
children to testify: it is difficult for a child to be deemed competent to testify against his or her
abuser, and even if he or she is deemed competent, testifying can be emotionally scarring and
frightening to a child.211 Thus, civil remedies are often a better option for child victims or adults
who were victimized as a child.212 In these cases, individuals who experienced childhood sexual
abuse are usually seeking monetary compensation for the suffering they experienced from the
abuse.213 Due to the nature of child sexual abuse, many victims do not bring claims until they
205 Wilson, supra note 7, at 529; Illinois State Police Child Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry, ILL. STATE
http://www.isp.state.il.us/cmvo/ (last visited Apr. 19, 2014).
206 Finkelhor, supra note 17, at 172–75.
207 KENNETH V. LANNING, NAT’L CTR. FOR MISSING & EXPLOITED CHILDREN, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, CHILD MOLESTERS: A
BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS 51 (5th ed. 2010), available at http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/publications/NC70.pdf (noting that a
child molester who targets acquaintances might molest many children in one lifetime).
208 Janus & Polachek, supra note 6, at 158.
209 See generally HAMILTON, supra note 4, at 15 (discussing legislation that makes it easier for child sexual abuse victims to bring
claims to court).
210 Khorram, supra note 12, at 396–97. In 2003, Congress abolished the federal criminal SOL for child sexual abuse, physical abuse,
or kidnapping of all children under the age of eighteen. HAMILTON, supra note 4, at 46; see PROTECT Act of 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-
21, 117 Stat. 650. Currently, most states do not have criminal SOLs for bringing claims of childhood abuse, however, most states
place restrictions on criminal SOLs in the form of statutes of limitation (this is what SOL stands for, why include it again?) or
evidentiary requirements, making them more difficult to prove. HAMILTON & VERKUIL, supra note 12, § C. For example, some states
have no criminal SOL for childhood sexual assault, unless there is DNA evidence present or the assault was committed with threats or
use of deadly force. Id.
211 OLIVA, supra note 14, at 162 (noting that children are not ideal witnesses because they are less likely to be able to accurately
identify people or places and recall specific events); ZILNEY & ZILNEY, supra note 58, at 150. To reduce the child’s fear of testifying
at trial, children are now allowed to testify via closed-circuit television. Id. Courts have made other provisions such as allowing
someone else to testify on the child’s behalf, utilizing a previously video-taped deposition, placing a physical barrier between the child
and the abuser, and having a support person present in the courtroom. JANE NUSBAUM FELLER ET AL., U.S. DEP’T OF HEALTH &
HUMAN SERVS., WORKING WITH THE COURTS IN CHILD PROTECTION 53 (1992), available at
212 NUSBAUM FELLER ET AL., supra note 211, at 52; see Khorram, supra note 12, at 396.