This Indiana Bill Could Possibly Help Victims of Priest Sex Abuse
By Jon Webb
Courier & Press
February 19, 2020
It’s been more than a year since a former Evansville man stood before the Indiana Senate to share something private and devastating.
On Feb. 13, 2019, Chris Compton told the Judiciary Committee that the late Rev. Raymond Kuper had sexually abused him while Compton was a 9-year-old student at Christ the King.
He was there to advocate for a Senate bill that would have given accusers of childhood sexual abuse more time to pursue civil cases in incidents that had long eclipsed the statute of limitations.
|Raymond Kuper (Photo: Courier & Press archives)|
Now, a similar-but-compromised bill is working its way through the legislature.
SB 109 blitzed through the Senate 44-2 earlier this month. And Wednesday morning, it landed in front of the House committee on courts and criminal code, chaired by Evansville-area Rep. Wendy McNamara.
It could allow accusers of clergy sex abuse, and other survivors, to seek retribution for the crimes perpetrated against them decades before.
But several barriers remain.
According to the bill, offenses previously "barred" by the statute of limitations would be open to criminal prosecution if: investigators uncover DNA evidence; a recording or other evidence against an alleged perpetrator surfaces; or the accused admits to the crime.
The bill would also do what Compton and others pressed for last year: reform some of the statutes of limitation for civil cases.
But according to a story from The Indiana Lawyer published earlier this month, the bill has been watered down so much that even proponents are underwhelmed by its reach.
Sen. Michael Crider’s original legislation would have given victims of rape, molestation and other sex crimes a lot more time to pursue charges.
But an amendment from Sen. Mike Young complicated things. It added the DNA / recording / confession stipulations and would largely preserve Indiana's statue of limitations. It was apparently done out of concern that a less restrictive bill would have made it difficult for accused abusers to defend themselves, the Indiana Lawyer reported.
The reformed bill clings to Indiana’s seemingly random age-cut-off of 31. Anyone that age or older who accuses someone of abusing them while they were a child can’t bring charges — unless that narrow band of evidence mentioned above somehow surfaces.
“It restricts law enforcement’s capability to really move forward on those cases that they want an opportunity to completely investigate and to try to follow where the evidence leads them,” Camille Cooper, vice president of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, told Indiana Lawyer.
But something is better than nothing – which is what Indiana has offered adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse for years.
“We will take what we can get,” Cooper said.
Evansville diocese allegations
As far as Compton’s allegation against Raymond Kuper, not much has changed since last year.
On Tuesday, Evansville diocese spokesman Tim Lilley said there was “nothing new to report” in the church’s internal investigation against Kuper, who died in 2012.
The same goes for David Fleck. The Evansville priest has been on administrative leave and barred from public ministry since he was accused of sexual misconduct way back in September 2018.
His accuser, who is apparently not one of the alleged victims, claims Fleck “solicited” two male students at Vincennes Rivet High School in the 1980s. Fleck denies the charges.
In the end, SB 109 may not apply to either of those cases. But it could empower someone to come forward and help unearth any abuser – clergy or otherwise – who still finds themselves in a position of power. And it could give victims at least a narrow road toward justice.
“This is about all the victims in our state,” Compton told the Senate last year. “Not just me.”