Decades long sexual abuse claims can seek justice under proposed bills

WILX - NBC 10 [Lansing MI]

November 2, 2023

By DeAnna Giles

The Justice for Survivor bills await a vote by the full house of representatives.

“It was therapeutic. It felt empowering. Shame, guilt embarrassment, that all went away. I didn’t do anything wrong. I was a victim. I was a child, but most importantly, I am a survivor.”

More than five decades had passed before Greg Guggemos remembered he had been sexually abused at the age of five. According to state law, sexual assault claims are only accepted up to three years.

For Guggemos, he was able to speak out against the Lansing Saint Vincent Orphanage more than 45 years after the abuse.

“It’s years and sometimes decades before you even recall it, and like I said, in my case, it was 55 years,” said Guggemos.

State Representative Julie Brixie hopes a new set of bills called Justice for Survivors encourages victims to come forward.

“The goal of these bills is to protect children from serial pedophiles and serial sexual predators,” said Brixie.

Under House Bill 4482 through 4487, sexual abuse victims can seek justice up to seven years from the assault or discovery in civil court. The maximum age for a victim to come forward changes from 28 years to 52 years of age. And the statute of limitations would be eliminated for a criminal indictment case.

In an interview with Michigan Radio, Representative Graham Filler says extending the statute of limitations means individuals won’t be able to prove their innocence as evidence is unavailable.

Guggemos says institutions still need to be held accountable.

“If there is culpability, then there’s accountability. Give them a chance in court everyone needs their opportunity a day in court,” said Guggemos.

“Growth from trauma is very complex for many people. The ability to speak often returns power that was taken away from survivors, or at least, in their opinion, or in how they feel,” said Heath Lowry.

Heath Lowry works with the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. He says it’s important to have laws that allow survivors to grow from their trauma in their own way.

Brixie says under the Justice for Survivors package, institutions will be held accountable.

“Institutions cannot hide behind a cloak of immunity if they knew or should’ve known that they had a serial path or a sexual predator and their ranks, and they fail to stop them,” said Brixie.

In the end, the goal is to create a window and extend that opportunity for justice. The Justice for Survivor bills were voted out of committee on Tuesday and they now await a vote by the full House of Representatives.

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