Legislation filed to end civil-action limitations for victims of child sexual abuse

WTVQ - ABC 36 [Lexington, KY]

February 8, 2022

By Steve Rogers

Wanting to better help victims of child sexual abuse and assault, state Senator Morgan McGarvey and Representative Lisa Willner filed legislation Tuesday that would end the statute of limitation for civil actions in these cases.

“Many victims of child sex abuse will not speak up due to the fears of being reprimanded or stigmatized,” said Sen. McGarvey of Louisville.  “Being sexually exploited is never an easy topic to discuss, especially at a young age. By removing the statute of limitations on this particular offense, we can offer these victims the necessary time to build up the courage to speak openly and bring their perpetrators to justice.”

“The General Assembly has taken this issue seriously in recent years and given survivors of child sexual abuse more time to bring a case forward, but we need to go further,” said state Rep. Lisa Willner of Louisville.  “Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime that mostly goes unreported altogether, for a variety of reasons, including stigma, shame, and fear.  When victims do report, most delay disclosure well into adulthood.  There is no reason for the law to impose an arbitrary time limit.”

Their identical legislation – each will file the bill in their respective chambers – would be retroactive for all victims and would also remove the statute of limitations on civil claims involving third parties that failed to act on behalf of the victim.

Sen. McGarvey and Rep. Willner noted that their private professions had an impact on pursuing this issue.  He is an attorney, while she is a licensed psychologist.

“I feel strongly that victims of these crimes need greater access to the courts so that some level of justice can prevail, no matter how long it takes,” Sen. McGarvey said.  Rep. Willner emphasized “how difficult it can be for victims to come forward and re-live the childhood trauma that robbed them of so much.”

They noted that research estimates that 3.7 million children are sexually abused annually in the United States, affecting one in four girls and one in 13 boys.  About one-third of the victims are younger than 12.

 In addition to the legislators, three others who joined them today were former state Representative Jim Wayne and advocates Shannon Whalen and Cal Pfeiffer.  All three played instrumental roles in previous legislation that is helping those who were sexually abused or assaulted as a child.

Sen. McGarvey’s and Rep. Willner’s bills will be considered by the General Assembly during the ongoing legislative session, which ends in mid-April.