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Bill expanding time for child sex abuse victims to file lawsuits fails to advance

According to the Arizona Daily Star, victims of child rape and sexual abuse in the state of Arizona won’t get more time to sue their assailants, at least not this year.

Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, refused to allow a vote on the measure Thursday in the Senate Appropriations Committee that she chairs.

Cobb said she has no problem with expanding the law that now requires victims to file suit within two years of turning 18. SB 1011 would have expanded that to 12 years, meaning when someone turns 30.

But Cobb said she could not support a provision in the bill designed to provide some legal relief for those who were molested years ago but whose time to file suit under Arizona law has long-since expired.

The proposal by Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, also would have provided a two-year window to bring all these old cases to court. That would have opened the door for victims of past child abuse to file new lawsuits, even if the incident had occurred decades earlier.

The problem, said Boyer, is that Arizona has a two-year statute of limitations to file civil claims of rape and sexual abuse.

That clock does not start running until the victim turns 18. But Boyer said that is insufficient time for someone who has been groomed by a predator to actually realize that it was not their fault and how they had been harmed.

Jeff Dion, who said he was a victim of child sex abuse, said that’s exactly the case.

“I did not recognize what happened to me counted as abuse until I was in law school,” he told lawmakers. “I was in my mid-30s before I recognized how that abuse had harmed me and what the impact had been on my life.”

And Dion, a lawyer, said this legislation isn’t simply about getting compensation and justice for victims. He said such lawsuits are the only way of shining a light on those who committed abuse and putting a halt to their activities.

“We know that, even if it takes someone 30 years to disclose the abuse, when their perpetrator is still alive, they’re often still molesting kids,” he said.

Gregory Kelly, now a Gilbert resident, told lawmakers how he was able to use a more expansive law in Delaware “to expose a serial pedophile who had gone undetected for decades.”

He and his brother, 12 and 11 at the time, were abused over a three-night period by a man who was a lifelong friend of the family. But he said the shock of it all prevented him from disclosing what had happened until he was an adult.

It was only later he discovered the Delaware law allowing for late-filed lawsuits. He said the publicity around his case brought out dozens of other victims who were willing to testify, resulting in the suspect — a judge — admitting to the incidents.

Boyer said the requirement to file lawsuits by someone’s 20th birthday is the lowest of any surrounding state.

New York sex abuse attorney Jeff Herman who has represented survivors of abuse for decades said, “For too long, victims of sexual abuse have had to suffer in silence due to strict statute of limitations like these. Victims deserve to be heard. They deserve to seek justice. And the community deserves protection from these predators,” he said.

With the recent passing of the New York Child Victims Act, the time has finally come for survivors in New York to take action. The New York CVA allows victims of child sex abuse to file a civil lawsuit against the offender up to until their 55th birthday. And, if a victim previously had a barred claim, they can file a claim within one year of August 14, 2019, no matter what their age is. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse in New York, Herman Law may be able to help you find long overdue justice.


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