St. Paul, Minn. – A group of law enforcement officers and child sexual abuse victim advocate organizations today announced their support for legislation that would give victims new opportunities to seek justice against their abusers and the institutions that facilitated the abuse. The legislation, the Minnesota Child Victims Act, will be introduced in the Minnesota House and Senate later this week.
The Minnesota Child Victims Act would make it easier for Minnesotans who were sexually abused as children to bring civil lawsuits against their abuser or the institution that facilitated the abuse. The legislation would remove the current statute of limitation that requires victims to file lawsuit within six years of becoming an adult. If the bill is passed into law, victims could file a lawsuit at any time no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.
“Current state law treats child sexual abuse the same as fraud and product liability,” said Representative Steve Simon (DFL- St. Louis Park), author of the legislation in the Minnesota House. “Sexually abusing a child is a horrific crime and those who abuse children and the institutions that permit it need to be held accountable.”
The legislation comes after a 2013 Adverse Child Experiences study by the Minnesota Department of Health showed 10 percent of Minnesotans were sexually abused as children. A recent survey by the National Center for the Victims of Crime indicated that one out of two Minnesotans know someone who was sexually abused as a child.
“The Minnesota Child Victims Act removes barriers that prevent victims from coming forward and seeking justice,” said Senator Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park), author of the legislation in the Minnesota Senate. “It sometimes takes decades for victims to confront the abuse, but current state law requires them to come forward before 24 years of age. Our legislation rightfully recognizes the healing process while holding abusers and institutions accountable.”
The legislation is supported by numerous child abuse victim advocate organizations, including the National Center for Victims of Crime, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Minnesota Alliance on Crime, Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, National Child Protection Training Center, Stop Abuse Campaign and 1in6.
“The sexual abuse of children is a public health epidemic,” said Jeff Dion, deputy executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. “Victims of child sexual abuse have an increased risk as adults of alcohol and substance abuse, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress and suicide.”
In addition to advocate organizations, the Minnesota Child Victims Act is supported by local law enforcement officials, including Kanabec County Attorney Amy Brosnahan, Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom, Carver County Attorney Mark Metz and Mower County Attorney Kristen Nelson. Kathleen Blatz, former Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, also supports the legislation.
“Child Sexual Abuse is a crime shrouded in shame and secrecy,” said Blatz. “Nearly every state recognizes the unique nature of sex abuse and has special laws for holding accountable perpetrators and other responsible parties. Eliminating the civil statute of limitations will allow all victims to be heard and to seek justice.”
Forty-one states recognize the unique nature of child sexual abuse cases and have separate statute of limitations for abuse lawsuits. California, Delaware and Hawaii are the only states that have allowed abuse cases with expired statute of limitations to move forward, but only gave victims a short window to file lawsuits. The Minnesota Child Victims Act would make Minnesota the only state to give victims the right to pursue civil lawsuits for expired cases without a time restriction.