Bill Removing Age Limitations on Child Sexual Abuse Crimes Advances

Mike Seals - March 11, 2021 11:09 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would eliminate age restrictions for future civil actions against individuals based on childhood sexual abuse incidents or exploitation passed the House today.

House Bill 1002, by Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, updates the Hidden Predator Act that was signed into law in 2017. The measure would remove from state law the restriction that a victim of child sexual abuse or exploitation, suffered before they were 18, must bring any action for recovery of damages to the courts by their 45th birthday.

“This is a request bill from the hundreds of survivors in Oklahoma who have endured decades of turmoil from the horrible abuse suffered as a child,” Bush said.

Bush previously pass two bills that raised the statute of limitations to age 45 in both the civil and criminal codes. The Governor signed both bills and since that time, many survivors have tried to have their day in court.  Unfortunately, the bills did not go far enough in allowing access to the justice needed, she said.

“Since that time, I have worked with several attorneys across the state, and the language of this bill is agreed upon by those who are working on this issue,” Bush continued.

HB 1002 eliminated the statute of limitations entirely. It will allow victims of sexual abuse or exploitation to hold the perpetrator and institution, business or organization found to be responsible for the abuse accountable going forward, and it also allows a five-year window to revive time-barred claims.

Bush said she could give stories from each House district in Oklahoma of child sexual abuse suffered, but she also pointed to instances in the national news as examples of such crimes. Dr. Larry Nassar with the US Gymnastics, Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno with Penn State, and Jeffrey Epstein have made national news and forced some states to change their laws as they realized victims were being silenced, children were endangered, laws favored perpetrators and reckless institutions were not held accountable, she said.

She also pointed to instances in Oklahoma in which cases of abuse were documented but judges dismissed the cases because of state statute.

“Most child victims of sexual assault disclose, if they disclose at all, during adulthood, with a median age of 48 and the average age of 52,” Bush said.  “Therefore, many states have eliminated the statute of limitations realizing the ineffectiveness of putting an age limit at all.”

Bush said this legislation being signed into law could help hundreds of victims of child sexual abuse across the state achieve closure, and hopefully will move the state one step closer to eliminating such abuse altogether.

HB 1002 passed with a vote of 81-6. It now advances to the state Senate where the author is Darrell Weaver, R-Moore.

 

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