"Good morning, thank you for having me. My name is Ginger Lewis. I’m an educator with over 20 years of experience in the classroom. I am new however, to the world of political activism. I’d like to begin with some excerpts from a handwritten letter to a survivor of sexual abuse.
“I knew what I was doing was wrong and was criminal but I did it anyway. I knew you trusted and adored me and I exploited that so I could keep on doing it without getting caught or without having to figure out what was wrong with me. I was satisfying my own sexual needs at your expense.”
Those are the words of my father, George Michael Lewis, written to me.
The sexual abuse began when I was eleven years old and continued for five years, on a nearly daily basis. Usually a horrifying visit in the early morning hours as the rest of the family slept. My days would start in terror and end in gut wrenching anticipation of the next morning.
This is the first time that I have gone public with my story. A story which will hopefully help you understand the need and importance of extending the amount of time that the victims of sexual abuse have to seek justice.
Crimes of a sexual nature come with a wide range of fallout that other crimes simply don’t have. There’s no shame attached to a convenience store clerk who’s been robbed at gunpoint - he simply calls the police immediately. There’s no stigma attached to the victims of Bernard Madoff who lost billions in his ponzi scheme. No one thinks the charities who invested with him might have been partly to blame. No one would ever think that an infant who’s been the victim of shaken baby syndrome somehow asked for it.
And yet, victims of sexual assault deal with all of those issues. The trauma we face is a blend of shame, blame, confusion, stigma, and doubt; and collectively they literally impact how we process time itself. We bear horribly terrible secrets, and they take years to work through. Both because of the nature of the crime and often because of the perpetrators themselves.
In another excerpt from my father’s letter he says, “I promised to stop and didn’t, breaking what trust you might have had left and then asked you not to tell, which, I’m sure, is partly responsible for your locking things away.”
My father was never locked away. He received what’s called a deferred prosecution. A fancy name for a slap on the wrist. A few months of counseling compared to my years of therapy. In essence, he got away with it. I don’t know how he got that deal other than to guess that his occupation as a high-powered attorney helped him work the system. And even if he hadn’t, he would probably still be free anyway because of the statute of limitations.
As his life went along as normal, mine has been a rollercoaster of recovery. I nearly died from anorexia during my twenties. I’ve struggled with depression for decades. And it is only now, 30 years after the abuse, that I’ve found the resolve to come forward.
I am speaking today on behalf of victims who are still seeking that strength to speak out. Whose struggles are taking years to reconcile, just like mine.
However delayed, everyone deserves a chance to seek justice. How heartbreaking it is, to work through all that trauma over all those years, only to be told that you’re out of time. Your statute of limitations has expired.
If it’s still hard to imagine why it takes so long to come forward, consider this. I have had that letter from my father for over 20 years. His handwritten confession. And even with that, it’s taken me until now to feel strong enough to go public. That’s how difficult this is to get through.
I’ve kept my father’s secret since 1981. But from this day forward, I will no longer be silent. I will be a voice of advocacy for the abused. I thank you for your time and attention. And I thank you in advance for your support of this bill."
Oklahoma State Capitol
HB 2292 would have extended the statute of limitations for crimes involving sexual abuse, thereby giving victims more time to seek justice. The measure passed unanimously in the House but died in the Senate. I remain undeterred, and in 2017 I'll be back at the State House.
On February 10, 2016 I testified before a House committee in support of HB 2292.