Guam teacher Joseph Santos has launched a drive for a petition titled “Silent No More” which asks the Guam Legislature to lift the statute of limitations for sex crimes. He said he was inspired by "Spotlight," a film about the child sexual abuse cover-up by the Catholic Church in Boston.
Yet Santos says that this is not just a Catholic issue. After a student told him of her own trauma, Santos did research on what can be done for victims on Guam. “What I found out is that there is little, especially on the civil side, that the victims can do,” he said. “I then thought that a petition would be a good place to start. I chose the title ‘Silent No More!’ because I, as an individual, have been too passive, especially in cases such as this. Also, I want the victims to have their day in court so that they too can be silent no more.”
Santos said he is motivated by his students who have experienced sexual violence. “They did not ask me to, but I realize that at this point in their lives, they do not have a voice,” Santos said.
His students’ traumas caused him to think about how the statutes of limitations on Guam have prevented some victims from gaining justice. With his petition, Santos said he wants to bring to light child sex crimes that have been unreported.
“When they become adults, they will not have a recourse to face their perpetrators because the statute of limitations will have expired by then,” he said.
Santos said he hopes his group will one day start a support group or counseling for victims. “Those are great ideas and when the victims themselves begin to step forward, they are going to need help in dealing with their ordeal,” he said. “Victims are reluctant to come forward at this point because they probably feel that there is nothing to be gained from reliving their pain. One of my goals is to give them hope that there is someone working for them.”
For now, Santos said, he wants victims of long expired crimes to have their justice. “At this point, I would just like a senator to step up and say they will support the petition and subsequent legislation,” he said.
To sign the Silence No More! petition, visit the Yona mayor’s office or the Sinajana mayor’s office. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.