Today, at 3:30pm, the Washington State House Appropriations Committee will review HB 1155 — the bill to remove the statute of limitations on felony sex crimes in Washington state.
As many readers know, last month, I testified in Olympia before the House Public Safety Committee, along with fellow survivors that I’m blessed to call friends. The bill made it out of that committee with flying colors, and was referred to Appropriations, where — frankly — all bills get sent.
SO… this is a big, important step, and farther than we got when we tried to pass this legislation last year. I’m celebrating that, for sure! BUT… we are in the middle of a massive winter storm. Mountain passes are closed without warning, or simply unsafe to travel. I will not be able to make it to Olympia to deliver my testimony in person.
However, my local representative is on the Appropriations Committee, and I talked to his legislative assistant, who assured me that if I sent my testimony by letter — along with the letters of others who would like their testimonies heard — he would ensure the committee members received them.
Humbly, this is what I am sending:
Thank you Chairman, and committee members, for considering my letter today.
Did any of you grow up in a small town? I did, too. My friends and I listened to the same music, shopped at the same stores… And, we were sexually abused by the same man.
I was 10, and in sixth grade. He’d have me work on projects for him at a computer terminal, where he would place his hands on me, rub his genitals across my back, and massage my shoulders and my breasts. When I told him to stop, he told me he was just showing me how much he appreciated me. Often, my two best friends were stationed on either side of me, and he would “appreciate” us, each in turn.
It made us feel dirty and ashamed, and eventually, one of my friends told the principal. I told my mom. My other friend told her mom. We TOLD, but it didn’t stop.
The investigation — years later — was handled through the school district, then through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Even in the end, after OSPI determined he’d sexually abused children over nearly 20 years, he wasn’t charged. Even then, system failed us. We had no legal advocates, and we weren’t offered services or representation.
31 years after abusing me, he still lives in my hometown. He doesn’t have to register as a sex offender, even though OSPI revoked his teaching certificate FOR sexual abuse. He still works with children, taking youth in swimsuits out on his boat during the summer for church youth groups, and passing out candy to kids during community events.
By the time I was strong enough — through counseling and support — to tell my story again, it was too late. In 2013, the statute of limitations (SOL) was lengthened, but it was still too late for me, and my fellow victims.
Today, I blog about my experience. Last year, after testifying before the House Public Safety Committee, I used his name — Bruce Huntoon. I began receiving messages from even more of his victims who said, “It happened to me, too.” A remarkable thing happened, as a result of going public… I found my tribe. That is, we found each other. Several of us were witnesses to each other’s molestation, and as we shared our memories, it validated what we’ve always known — we didn’t remember wrong. We didn’t misunderstand. Also, we learned we weren’t alone, and there were so many more of us.
Not one of us understood the effects of the abuse — literally at the hands of our teacher — until it was too late. I mean, the school investigated, and OSPI investigated, and they surely had our protection as a priority, right? We left it in the hands of the system to protect us, and to provide justice, but it never came. We waited, ashamed, and suffering from wounds we couldn’t even identify — some that would take years to fully manifest — waiting on an arrest that would never come.
We spent years just… Trying to survive. In our twenties and thirties, maybe we gained some footing, but most of us weren’t able to connect the dots until much later. Some of us still haven’t.
I’m 41. I’m married, the mom to eight children — six of them girls. My husband… he’s supportive, but… Our marriage suffers. Our intimacy suffers. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of what my teacher did, and I suffer from autoimmune disorders (common in sexual abuse survivors at an astonishing rate — read some of my fellow survivors’ stories… they have them, too).
Some nights, he hardly sleeps at all, because my nightmares cause me to be so restless. I wake up screaming, or I wake up afraid to move, speak, or be touched.
It may be too late for justice for me. It may be too late for some of my friends, who haven’t yet journeyed far enough to speak out. Some are battling for their lives after years of shame and stress, but several did submit letters for your consideration — one who was terrorized and harassed by this man as recently as two years ago. Add us up… I’m giving you letters from just a few. Many more are named in the Order of Revocation, which I am attaching separately. The average pedophile molests 260 children during his lifetime. How many NEVER told about this ONE man?
It may be too late for the children named, and not named, in the findings from OSPI, but please…. Don’t let it be too late for one more child.
Thank you for your commitment to full consideration of HB 1155. Victims in Washington state need to know that when they are strong enough to tell, there will still be hope… and perpetrators in Washington state need to know they will never be safe from prosecution for their horrific crimes.
There is no SOL for murder in our state, and it’s no coincidence that many sexual abuse victims and advocates draw a parallel to sex crimes, calling it a “murder of the soul.” The damage of sexual abuse stays with us FOREVER. We can’t erase it, fully heal it, or make it go away. It leaves scars on our bodies, on our spirits, and on our souls. It affects our loved ones, our partners, and our children.
How can we — as a society — tolerate the idea that if a person sexually abuses a child, if that criminal can “wait it out,” or if they’ve injured, threatened, or intimidated their victims enough to prevent them from speaking out, they should be safe from prosecution?
We shouldn’t, and we won’t.
My tribe and I will keep fighting for this legislation, even if it doesn’t pass this year. We will keep telling our stories, and we will collect even more along the way. We’ll tell, over and over and over again… until we are SEEN as the survivors we are, HEARD as the survivors we are, and VICTORIOUS in protecting every other survivor that comes after us.
Please, don’t make us return next year. Rather, let us get to the important work of helping others to find their voices and to heal. We are counting on you to get HB 1155 to the House floor for a vote, where its strong bipartisan roots can take hold, and flourish into something necessary for justice, and healing for our wounded.
Very truly yours,
I also had the honor, and the privilege, of including letters from several of my sister survivors, and I think they are SO INCREDIBLY FREAKING BRAVE and heroic for writing them! I’m moved to tears by the pride I have to stand alongside them, and many days, I don’t feel worthy of them.
I hate being so far away. I don’t know if my words carry the same weight on paper, as in person. I won’t be able to read the body language of the committee members. I feel like I’m resorting to scattershot advocacy… even though, deep down, I know what we have done will be enough. It will be enough for God’s plan, His justice, His time. This was my part, at this time, this moment, right now.
We’d love your prayers, y’all.