Op-Ed

Victims Advocacy director: Andy Beshear strives to change culture and prevent abuse

Beshear supports giving child sexual abuse victims more time to file suit

Attorney General Andy Beshear talks about a legislative proposal that would give Kentucky sexual abuse victims 10 years instead of five years to file a civil lawsuit against their perpetrator and organizations that enabled the abuse.
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Attorney General Andy Beshear talks about a legislative proposal that would give Kentucky sexual abuse victims 10 years instead of five years to file a civil lawsuit against their perpetrator and organizations that enabled the abuse.

Changing a culture of violence doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen without those in positions of leadership using their power for good.

Last week, Attorney General Andy Beshear launched Green Dot, a bystander violence prevention program for his entire office, and pledged to extend this training to all state employees if elected governor. The theory of Green Dot is that each citizen can make choices and take actions each day to disrupt and prevent child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and other power-based interpersonal violence.

Participants are asked to share their connection to power-based violence: have you been a victim? Do you know someone who has been a victim? What motivates you? When I’ve asked Andy this question, his answer surprised me. He explained that what he learned on the case involving the Boy Scouts is what drove him to strengthen protections for victims as attorney general.

Andy has dedicated much of his work to help nonprofits develop policies and procedures to keep kids safe, serving on the board of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky. Protecting children from abuse and seeking justice for victims of rape and sexual assault have been the heartbeat of his office. It’s an example of moral leadership other elected Kentucky leaders would do well to emulate, given the recent scandals of sexual harassment in the state legislature and the constant flood of disclosures in the #MeToo era.

Andy created and empowered a team within his office to champion efforts to end Kentucky’s rape kit backlog, investigate and prosecute cases and form the first Survivors Council of victims of all violent crimes in any Office of the Attorney General nationwide. He’s increased investigations and prosecutions of child predators and human traffickers and taken a strong stand against rollbacks of protections for campus sexual assault survivors.

He’s shown a willingness to work with any individual or institution seeking to protect children and seek justice for victims. In 2016, he partnered with First Lady Glenna Bevin to bring greater awareness to preventing child sexual abuse. He partnered with the legislature to call for a bipartisan task force on child abuse and exploitation leading to multiple reforms, including background checks at summer camps and extending the time to file child sexual abuse civil suits from five to ten years.

Beshear continues to fight for better laws to protect victims. He sought the ability to convene a special grand jury that would investigate widespread institutional child abuse and human trafficking across county lines. He sought human trafficking training for all commercial drivers in Kentucky so they can effectively identify victims. For his efforts, he’s been recognized as a champion of victims’ rights by multiple advocate organizations, including the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, Kentucky Youth Advocates, the Center for Women and Families, and Marsy’s Law of Kentucky.

I have worked alongside Andy for the past three and a half years and can say with absolute certainty that his belief in a safer world for our children and his passion for seeking justice for victims is what motivates him everyday and is his moral compass. In Kentucky, nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men will experience sexual violence. We need bold, visionary leaders like Andy who have the courage to change a culture of violence. Our children deserve no less.

Gretchen Hunt, serves as director of Victims Advocacy for the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General and has spent the last 19 years advocating for victims of violence.

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