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Elmo puppeteer escapes 5 sex abuse suits due to timeline issues

Last week, we wrote about the importance of giving sex abuse victims adequate time to file claims against their abusers. Child sex abuse is so traumatic that victims may repress memories for years or even decades. Even if they do not repress memories, many victims still take this long to process and come to terms with the abuse they suffered. By the time they file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations has likely expired.

Of all the high-profile allegations of sexual abuse against celebrities, one individual has received relatively little attention. In recent years, at least 5 young men have come forward with allegations that they were sexually abused by Kevin Clash, who was the puppeteer and voice of Elmo on “Sesame Street” for 28 years. He resigned in 2012 in the midst of the scandal. All victims were teenage minors when the alleged abuse occurred.

Clash has never been charged criminally, and all five sex abuse lawsuits against him have been dismissed. The final lawsuit was dismissed late last month by a Pennsylvania judge. The merits of the case could not be considered because the victim filed the suit after the statute of limitations had expired.

The 25-year-old victim is from Pennsylvania, but the alleged sexual encounters occurred in New York. The man says he was just 16 years old when he met Clash and was lured into a sexual relationship. Because the alleged incidents occurred in New York, the victim would have had to file the lawsuit by age 19 in order to comply with the timeline specified under New York law.

It is sad, to say the least, that five alleged victims were denied an opportunity for justice because of a legal technicality. Hopefully, New York and other states will consider changes to their statutes of limitation regarding child sex abuse.

Source: LGBTQ Nation, "Judge dismisses last sex abuse lawsuit against Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash," MaryClaire Dale, June 22, 2014

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