State May Force Churches to Report Sex Abuse
Bill Would Expand Age Limit to 45

Channel 3000 [Madison WI]
Downloaded September 19, 2003

MADISON, Wis. -- People who say they were abused by priests as children urged legislators Thursday to change state law to let them file civil lawsuits against their attackers regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

The victims asked members of two legislative committees to amend a bill to include a one-year window for them to file lawsuits in any case.

They spoke at a joint hearing of the Assembly Judiciary and Senate Judiciary, Corrections and Privacy committees on the bill, which would extend the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in sex abuse cases and require churches to report sex abuse allegations to authorities.

The victims said many of their cases are too old to fall within the bill's extension of the statute of limitations for filing suits, denying them the chance to take on their attackers in court.

"The statute of limitations is evil. It protects child molesters," said Barbara Blaine, national president of Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests. "I'm asking you to be courageous and take the legislation one step further."

The bill's authors, Rep. Peggy Krusick, D-Milwaukee, and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said a one-year retroactive window would be unconstitutional.

Krusick said the bill would:

Expand the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges in a child sex abuse case to age 45 instead of age 31, as prescribed by law.

Allow victims in child abuse cases to file civil lawsuits until age 35 instead of age 20.

Hold churches legally responsible for clergy sexual abuse.

Add clergy to the professions required to report sex abuse of children to police.

If the bill becomes law, it would open the door to some lawsuits against religious organizations that many believe the state Supreme Court closed in 1995. The court ruled it couldn't decide whether religious institutions improperly hired, supervised or trained their workers because the U.S. Constitution prohibits such a review.

The Roman Catholic Church is still struggling with allegations church leaders covered up past allegations of sexual abuse by transferring priests to new assignments.

The Milwaukee Archdiocese said between 250 and 300 people have contacted it since 1994 for help with problems related to sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

Assembly Bill 428

Senate Bill 207


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