When Nelson Hincapie was 12 years old, he began experiencing sexual abuse by a trusted teacher.
“When I look back on the abuse now, it’s obvious that I wasn’t the only kid he groomed and abused,” Nelson says.
To cope with the abuse, Nelson turned to drugs and other unhealthy coping mechanisms. It was only in 2019, after a long healing process, that he finally felt ready to report the abuse. Unfortunately, after contacting the police department and school system where the abuse occurred, he learned that it was outside the timeframe for the statute of limitations for the crime, and Nelson was unable to find justice.
Nelson’s story is just one of countless in Colombia — and around the world — demonstrating the impact of the statute of limitations on survivors of child sexual abuse. Thankfully, Colombia is taking action to prevent violence against children and ensure that survivors like Nelson get the justice they deserve.
After Colombia’s groundbreaking work in leading the Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) process and raising awareness of violence against children, just last week they announced that they are eliminating the statute of limitations for sexual violence crimes against children.
Statutes of limitations (SOLs) set the deadline for pressing criminal charges or filing a civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse. They are problematic because many survivors do not disclose their abuse until later in life, leaving many without an opportunity to seek justice.
Statutes of limitations (SOLs) set the deadline for pressing criminal charges or filing a civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse. They are problematic because, as highlighted in our What Works to Prevent Sexual Violence Against Children evidence review, many survivors do not disclose their abuse until later in life. In fact, one study by Child USA found that of those who do disclose child sexual abuse, the average age is 52 years old. The difficulty in coming forward after experiencing traumatic abuse means that many survivors miss the deadline for pressing charges and therefore, miss their opportunity for justice.
In the evidence review, we highlight “Eliminating SOLs for sexual violence crimes” as an intervention that is critical for preventing sexual violence against children (p. 47). We classified interventions in the evidence review using the INSPIRE framework, which is aligned with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By eliminating SOLs, countries and states help realize SDG 16.2, which specifically seeks to “End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.”
Together for Girls applauds Colombia for their dedication to protecting children and for taking concrete steps to prevent and respond to violence, while contributing to the SDGs. We hope that their progress in addressing violence against children and youth will encourage other countries to follow suit so that together, we can create a safer world for every child.
To learn more about Colombia’s work to end violence against children and youth, visit the Colombia country page.
To learn more about What Works to Prevent Sexual Violence Against Children, check out the #SVsolutions evidence review.