CHICAGO (CBS) — Scott Cross made headlines when he testified that former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert abused him when he was a wrestler at Yorkville High School in the late 1970’s. He says sometimes it takes a lifetime for survivors to come forward.
“I understand that the average age that an individual is willing to come forward is roughly 42 years of age. Our current state stops at age 38. It is unbelievably hard to step forward and confront a person of power and trust in somebody that you idolized and respect,” said Cross, who is now 54. He is also the brother of former Republican statehouse leader Tom Cross.
Currently in Illinois, such crimes must be reported and prosecuted within 20 years of the survivor turning 18.
In April, Cross testified at Hastert’s sentencing hearing that he had molested him when he was 17.
“While this is difficult for me to discuss,” Cross said, fighting back tears. “It’s one that can’t be swept under the rug. Earlier this year, it shocked the world that Hastert used his wealth, prestige and power accumulated through years of elected office to cover up sexual crimes he perpetrated over the years.”
But Hastert was only charged with federal banking laws because the statute of limitations had run out.
“Hastert inflicted unbelievable pain on the lives of the youth,” Cross said. “He was entrusted to care for yet he got a slap on the wrist. As hard as it is continue to live through the events of the past, the laws in Illinois and across the country have to change.”
Cross joined Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in testifying before the Senate Criminal Law Committee’s Subcommittee on Statutes of Limitation.
“In Illinois there should not be statutes of limitations on crimes against children,” Madigan said. “As we have understood more about the difficult process that survivors endure, the federal government and states across the country have been rethinking statues of limitations on these crimes.”
Nationwide, 36 others states and the federal government have removed criminal statutes of limitations for all sexual offenses against children.
“With the support of my family and the Attorney General, I’m here today to reclaim the power Hastert took from too many of us years ago and to channel it into actions,” Cross said. “To empower survivors of sexual abuse to obtain justice under the law. It should offend everyone’s faith in the judicial system that Illinois’ laws today would still allow child molesters to avoid prosecution from heinous abuse because a survivor didn’t come forward in time.”
The General Assembly is considering four measures to eliminate criminal statutes of limitations for sexual offenders that are committed against children.
Senate Bill 3402 and House Bill 1127 remove the statutes of limitations in cases of sexual assault and sexual abuse of a child. House Bill 1128 and 1129 removes the statutes of limitations in cases of other sexual offenses against a child such as incest, solicitation, grooming, possessing and disseminating child pornography, prostitution and failure to report sexual abuse of a child.
“There are other survivors from every corner of the state who like me, carried a tremendous burden, suffered under tremendous guilt, and felt powerless because we didn’t come forward quick enough and as a result, we silenced because of Illinois’ legal system,” Cross said . “Seize this moment in history and make Illinois one of the toughest states on child sex offenders.”
The soonest any of the proposed bills could be taken up is next month during lawmakers’ brief fall session.