Feature

Austria: Where child abusers go free

Because the alleged abuse happened in the 1970s, the statute of limitations has run out, and no charges can be brought, said Ulrike Weiser at Die Presse.

Ulrike WeiserDie Presse

Austria is a land where young girls can be systematically raped and their torturers will go free, said Ulrike Weiser. As unjust as that sounds, there is a compelling argument for it being that way. Last weekend, two women came forward alleging that they and others had been raped and abused at a government-run foster home when they were only 6 and 8 years old. Yet because the alleged abuse happened in the 1970s, the statute of limitations has run out, and no charges can be brought. Many Austrians are now saying we should waive that restriction, but most experts disagree.

As distasteful as it is to think that horrific crimes may go unpunished, “there are good reasons for setting limits.” Forty years after a rape, it is “extremely difficult to prove” that any abuse was committed, or that it was committed by the accused and not by someone else. And psychiatrists say that even for the abused women, a trial may not be helpful. Adults who relive their traumas on the witness stand are often doomed to see themselves as “eternal victims.” What happened to those poor girls, if true, is terrible. But a trial wouldn’t necessarily bring them justice.

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