House Bill Removes Statute Of Limitations That Could Revive Sex Abuse Claims

Feb 4, 2020

Credit SDPB

South Dakota lawmakers will hear a bill that strips the statute of limitations for adults who bring lawsuits on sexual abuse they experienced as children.

Similar bills have failed in the past.

It’s been 10 years since state lawmakers placed a statute of limitations on child sex crimes. It says any over the age of forty can only recover damages from any person or entity that perpetrated the sexual abuse act.

Since then, one group of Native women have been trying to overturn that statute of limitations. They are trying again this year.

Louise Charbonneau alleges she and her nine sisters are the victims of sexual abuse perpetrated at the St. Paul Indian Mission in Marty in the 1950’s and 60’s.

They allege being deloused with the insecticide DDT, being shown Nazi propaganda and being told their parents will go to hell if they tell them about their abuse.

Charbonneau says the bill will protect South Dakota children by giving them a window for child sex abuse victims to come forward.

“To say enough is enough,” Charbonneau says. “We’ve been living with this for enough years. Let’s get it settle and let’s have justice for people who have been so horribly abused, for children coming forward today. Let’s make them feel that it isn’t their fault. Don’t look at them like they’re the ones at fault. They’re children. We were children in a violent place where nobody did nothing.”

The Charbonneau sisters internalized their experience until they reached middle-age and began talking about their alleged abuse. Many of the alleged perpetrators are now dead. Legislation that seeks to remove the limit stalls year after year. Democratic Representative Shawn Bordeaux is the prime sponsor of the bill this year.

In a separate case in 2011, the state supreme court ruled in favor of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, saying the plaintiff’s sexual abuse occurred more than forty years ago and that they needed to bring civil action within three years’ time after the abuse was discovered.