COLUMBUS, Ohio — An online registry of child-sex offenders found liable in civil lawsuits has never been used eight years after it was created by legislative compromise, an outcome predicted by critics of the compromise, the Columbus Dispatch reported today.
The registry replaced a proposal providing a one-time, one-year window for victims to file lawsuits alleging child sex abuse had occurred as long as 35 years earlier. That one-year period would have started when the proposal became law.
But pressure from the Roman Catholic church and other church groups scuttled that provision and replaced it with the registry over the objections of abuse victims, the Columbus Dispatch reported today.
“It was never set up to be effective from Day One. It was a diversion to make people feel like something would come of it,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
The registry is maintained by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office but has never had a name placed on it. It differs from the state’s sex offender database, which lists people convicted of sex crimes and labeled sex offenders.
The civil database gives victims the ability to place the names of child-sex offenders in the online registry if a judge finds the offender liable in a civil judgment.
It’s no surprise the registry hasn’t been used, said John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
“Who’s going to do that if they’re not going to get any damages?” he said. “All you do is get him on some kind of registry, which would be nice, I suppose, but I don’t know if private persons are going to go to all that trouble just for that.”
Carolyn Jurkowitz, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, didn’t know why the registry hadn’t been used.
“I know people have gone to dioceses and made their case. I can only guess, but perhaps going through those processes and feeling like they’ve gotten heard and had some relief satisfied their need to have some restitution,” she said.
The 2006 legislation also required for the first time that church leaders report the abuse of a child and extended from age 20 to age 30 the period in which a victim of alleged abuse could sue.