Buzz Feed news reporters Andrew Kaczynski and Ilan Ben-Meir published a story yesterday entitled Co-Author of Mike Huckabee Books Was Accused of Child Molestation in Two Legal Cases. Using public documents, including court papers and police reports, the reporters revealed affidavits alleging child sexual abuse against Nashville author John Perry, a co-author and/or contributor to books authored by famous evangelicals, including Mike Huckabee, John MacArthur, and Richard Land. A Nashville police spokesman, responding to queries from Buzz Feed, said: "The alleged sexual battery was reported to have occurred when the victim was between the ages of 11 and 14."
Then the Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron elaborated:
"As a result of the investigation, the allegations of sexual battery were sustained, but it was determined that the statue of limitations had tolled, barring prosecution."It is Don Aaron's next statement that startled me:
"The victim was age 18 when she first disclosed the allegations to non-law enforcement and said at that time she did not want the matter reported to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services or the police."Read that again: "The victim was 18 when she first disclosed the allegations to non-law enforcement."
I spoke to the victim over a year ago. She read an article that I wrote and reached out to me via email. Later we spoke by phone. Like all victims of child abuse, she has been traumatized. She does not wish to be re-victimized by her story going public. I explained to her that it was my desire to protect her identity, but the reason there are mandatory reporting laws is because child abuse is a crime against society.
The victim initially reported her abuse to non-law enforcement in the summer of 2007. She was going into her senior year of high school. Her abuser was repeatedly confronted by church authorities, and finally, allegedly confessed to his crimes. John Perry was then allowed to resign from his position as an officer of Covenant Presbyterian in Nashville in July of 2008.
The Buzz Feed article reports that the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department "launched an investigation in 2012 and found the allegations against Perry were sustained" -- now let this next sentence sink in -- "but it was determined that the statute of limitations had tolled, barring prosecution."
In 2012 the Metropolitan Police Department "launched its investigation."
In 2007 the victim first disclosed her abuse to non-law enforcement.
5 years after the abuse was first reported.
In those five years a teenage girl crosses the threshold of adulthood to turn 21-years-of-age. It's like having the fire alarm triggered after the house has burned down. It's like posting a warning sign on a washed out bridge after the car has been swept down the river. It's like city officials sounding the tornado alarm after the town has been blown away.
And here is what seems even more bizarre about this John Perry story. The person who reported the child abuse to the police in 2012--in order that the police could "launch their investigation"-- was a man named Austin Davis. There's an axiom in dysfunctional families and covenant relationships that those who report the problem often become the problem.
I'm sure, like all police departments, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department depends on city attorneys for legal counsel, and will on occasion consult with their specialized police attorneys. There are a few questions that reporters, bloggers, and advocates for victims of child sexual abuse should be asking.
(1). The Tennessee Code of Law indicates that the statute of limitations for sexual battery of a minor which occurs between July 1, 1997 - June 2006 is when the victim reaches the age of 21. When the police spokesman says "the statute of limitations had tolled," was that date of limitation the summer of 2007 when the abuse was first reported? No? Okay, then was it the summer of 2008 when the alleged child abuser was allowed to quietly resign his position at the church with no explanation? No? Okay, was it 2010 when Covenant Presbyterian ex-communicated John Perry for ""...committing heinous and repetitive sin against his family"? No? Okay, was it 2012 when the police "launched their investigation"? When did the statute of limitations run out? If it is possible to withhold information from police until the statute of limitations runs out, and the alleged perpetrator cannot be prosecuted, it seems that might be incentive for friends and loved ones to cover, hide and suppress any allegations of child sexual battery? That's why we have mandatory reporting laws. I don't pretend to know the answers, I just have some good questions that should be asked.
(2). If some of the "non-law enforcement" were church officials to whom the victim reported her abuse when she turned eighteen, it seems a legitimate and fair question to ask if those church officials sensed any obligation to file a mandatory report to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department and the Tennessee Department of Children's Services in either 2007 or 2008 when they were first informed of the abuse by the victim. It does seem as if Covenant church officials knew of the child abuse when John Perry was allowed to quietly resign in 2008 and then "ex-communicated" in 2010 for "...committing heinous and repetitive sin against his family (without) evidence of repentance" (Source: Covenant church minutes). However, to be fair, reporters need to ask this question to Covenant Presbyterian officials: "When did you first find out about the alleged child abuse?"
(3). Finally, child abuse seems to be an epidemic in our country. While we all have empathy for the victim, the bigger question that needs to be asked is simply this: "Has everyone in Nashville, Tennessee, from the police, judges, church officials, lawyers, and civic leaders taken the proper steps in following all state and federal laws in regards to allegations of child sexual battery?"It's definitely time to do the right thing.