by Marci A. Hamilton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 168pp. Hardback. $23.00/£16.99. ISBN: 9780521886215.

Author’s reply: Marci A. Hamilton, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. Email: Hamilton02 [at] aol.com.

(Editor’s note: The following is a comment on a recently published review. LPBR welcomes such comments and invites submissions to the editor.)


In JUSTICE DENIED: WHAT AMERICA MUST DO TO PROTECT ITS CHILDREN, I argue that the state and federal governments should work toward eliminating the civil and criminal statutes of limitations governing childhood sexual abuse. While the book was written for a general audience, the supporting material solidly supports the public policy claims made. This is a response to the review by Whitley Kaufman, which appeared in the LAW AND POLITICS BOOK REVIEW, Vol.19, no.7 (July 2009), pp.543-547.

The reviewer claims that no one knows what statute of limitations reform will accomplish – even though some states already have started to experiment with the approach I advocate. In fact, I discuss California’s experience throughout the book. For example, on pp.30-31 and p.78, in particular, I explain that one important benefit of eliminating the SOLs is the public identification of perpetrators previously unknown. In California, the public learned the identities of 300 perpetrators whose proclivities and identities were secret until then. (The same phenomenon repeated itself in Delaware over the past 2 years since the book was published.) This point, which the reviewer either never picks up or ignores, is a major theme of the book and one of the most important arguments in favor of making this simple legal change.

Then he ignores the support for important factual claims. I state in the text that at least 25% of girls and 20% of boys are sexually abused and cite the most authoritative recent source on the prevalence of child sex abuse in the United States: the work of Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea (chap 1, endnote 2). Frawley-O’Dea is a national leader among those studying this issue in the country, as well as an influential member of the highly respected Leadership Council. But this reviewer ignores that citation to national numbers and then tries to refute my statement in the book by picking numbers later in the footnote that go to evidence of prevalence in the international community.

Finally, I found it amazing that a scholarly journal would accept as a rebuttal to a point made in a recent book a quote from an article published in 1994. Had the reviewer done his homework, he would know that the so-called “false memory syndrome” [*622] movement has ground to a halt with the repudiation of its leaders in courtrooms around the country. See, e.g., the case of NICOLE TAUS v. ELIZABETH LOFTUS (2007), where the court required Loftus to pay $7500 for misleading plaintiff as part of study. The most recent research has reaffirmed the reality of repressed memories, the unlikelihood of children lying about sexual abuse, and brought into question the era of social science on which he relies. I recommend as a start Charles L. Whitfield (2001), who concludes there is “no convincing evidence in the clinical and scientific literature that anyone can ‘suggest’ or ‘implant’ enduring false memories of childhood sexual abuse, or induce the long-term effects of child sexual abuse in individuals or groups of people without actually abusing them.”

JUSTICE DENIED sets forth a crucial change in the law to help us as a society to identify child sexual predators. So far, we are rich in approaches like sex offender registries and harsher sentences that assume we know who those perpetrators are. The novelty of the reform of statutes of limitations is that it unmasks a large number of perpetrators who are grooming their next victims in relative anonymity – because the statutes of limitations typically elapse before victims come forward. The book was written for the public and, particularly, legislators to make this a better place for our children.

Whitfield, Charles L. 2001. “The ‘False Memory’ Defense: Using Disinformation and Junk Science in and out of Court.” 9 JOURNAL OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE (no. 3/4) 53-78.

TAUS v. LOFTUS, 40 Cal.4th 683, 54 Cal.Rptr.3d 775 (2007).

© Copyright 2009 by the author, Marci A. Hamilton.