invisible hit counter
Bill gives abuse victims more time
WOODBINE - Extending the time in which a victim of childhood sexual abuse can file a civil lawsuit against an alleged abuser will send a message, State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, says.

"Their actions will come back to haunt them," he said. "Very few abuse cases are reported."

Legislation in the state House of Representatives to extend the statute of limitations on civil actions for childhood sexual abuse has been approved by the Non-Civil Subcommittee, but must clear one more committee to get to the House floor.

Spencer says House Bill 771 is necessary, because under current law, a child sex abuse victim may only bring action against his or her abuser up to five years after reaching the age of 18.

The bill, if approved, would allow victims to take legal action against his or her abuser until they reach the age of 30.

"I believe the statute of limitations should be extended significantly," Spencer said. "When a child is sexually abused, it is like the soul of the child has been murdered. The child is changed forever," he said.

"A child who is a victim of these silent crimes should have the opportunity to confront their perpetrator when they are empowered and ready," Spencer said. "Adult perpetrators will now be put on notice and held accountable for their actions."

Spencer said it's an "injustice" the law sets a time limit for childhood sexual abuse victims to file a complaint against an abuser.

"It can take up to 20 years for someone to undergo counseling before they have the courage to confront their perpetrator," he said. "It could be an influential person in their community."

During a House committee meeting Feb. 10, Angela Williams, author of "From Sorrows to Sapphires" and founder of Voice Today, a support and advocacy group, testified in support of the bill.

"Once a child has been sexually abused, they are given a life sentence," she said. "The question becomes, 'how does a victim get justice in a civil action when the existing statute of limitations is only five years?' Most survivors don't speak up until they are older and by then, according to the current law, it is too late to prosecute their abusers."

Williams said the bill can bring reform necessary for victims to obtain justice in a civil action.

"In 2012, Georgia removed the statute of limitations on criminal prosecution of child sexual abuse cases," she said. "Criminal prosecution of child sexual abuse cases is challenging at best, and this bill will bring greater justice by reforming the civil statute of limitation."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at gjackson@thebrunswick news.com, on Facebook or at 464-7655.



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