Lawmakers want to give sex abuse victims from decades past the chance to file suit

Hawaii News Now

January 25, 2018

By Lynn Kawano

Hawaii lawmakers want to give more abuse victims the chance to come forward and file civil lawsuits, no matter how much time has passed.

Bills introduced in both the House and Senate failed last session, but a national movement to expose abusers and the high profile case against Kamehameha Schools could add momentum for the legislation.

Representative Linda Ichiyama and Senator Maile Shimabukuro introduced companion bills which would extend the window for lawsuits despite the statute of limitations.

“What we’re learning from data and research about trauma and what happens to a person’s brain when they undergo trauma is that they’re not ready to bring suits until much later,” says Ichiyama, “I think we need to adjust policies to reflect that research now that we know.”

More than a hundred victims came forward between 2012 and 2016, a four-year window that was opened for old sex abuse cases. Most of the cases involved catholic church priests and a psychiatrist who molested boys while they attended Kamehameha Schools.

Shimabukuro says national movements like the “#MeToo” campaign have also highlighted the need for victims to stand up and expose abusers.

“Less and less people are having shame for something that happened to them that wasn’t their fault,” says Shimabukuro.

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