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Lawmakers Deny Temporary Lift On Statute Of Limitations For Child Sex Abuse Claims

Jenifer Jones

House lawmakers are rejecting a proposal that would amend the statute of limitations for civil actions brought because of claims of childhood sexual abuse.

The proposal is backed by a group of Native women who’ve been seeking to change the limitation for fifteen years.

The bill removed a provision that no one over the age of 40 can bring a suit against a person or entity other than against the person who committed the offense. That provision was added in 2010. The bill this year would have also created a two-year window for those whose cases were thrown out by that 2010 law to bring a civil action for damages.

CHILD USA, a think tank for child protection, says the average age of disclosure by those who experience child sexual abuse is 52 years old.

Francis Hart of Wagner is a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe . She attended the St. Paul boarding school in Marty, South Dakota, in the fifties and says she experienced sexual abuse in school. She says South Dakota should follow the lead of other states who don’t have limitations placed on child sexual abuse.

“Our children and our grandchildren would be in a safer world,” Hart says. “This statute of limitation—I think it creates more problems for all the younger generation. Our lives are in jeopardy from perpetrators like this. If you don’t take them to court, you don’t prosecuted them, then what? It continues on and on and on.”

Critics of the bill point to the provision in law that still allows victims to sue the person who perpetuated the sexual abuse. They say statutes of limitations are put in place because it becomes difficult to disprove claims based on the passage of time. Witnesses may die or move away.

The House Judiciary committee rejected the proposal 8 to 4.