BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Governor John Bel Edwards continues to work through the stack of bills to sign on his desk. One bill would remove the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse cases and advocates are eager to see him sign it.
The bill by Representative Jason Hughes won unanimous approval in the House on the final day of session. He closed his message with saying “it is never too late to do the right thing” and some survivors of childhood sexual abuse believe this bill gives them hope for the future.
The average age for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to come forward is 52. Under current state law people have until they are 28 to report.
“It’s guilt and shame are the two things that keep us quiet as well as the older generational ‘keep everything hush inside the family deal,’” said Mark Varth, Co-Founder of Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse.
His organization is elated to hear of the bill completely taking away the statute of limitations. The bill originally looked to just expand the statute of limitation for 35 years, but many lawmakers through the process said that was not enough. For those who are survivors, they often struggle throughout their lives to talk about what happened to them and deal with things like mental health issues, addiction, and other hardships. Advocates are hopeful this legislation can bring some relief to them.
“Survivors that come forward now in their 50s, they’re simply told by the institution you waited too long, there is no recourse for you,” Varth said. “Now there is recourse so maybe that recourse can get through the guilt and the shame.”
Varth said he can’t imagine being able to tell his story at age 15 and it took him well into his adulthood to be able to speak on it.
“Because I can tell you that those 35 years that I lived in silence were brutal,” Varth said.
The bill also adds a prescriptive period, which means people who have already aged out of the current statute of limitations will have three years to file their civil cases.
“It gave people the opportunity, those three years, to get rid of the guilt and the shame, come forward and have some sort of civil at least civil recourse,” Varth said.
He is hopeful survivors will be able to get the closure they need without the time ticking down anymore. The organization is hopeful Governor Edwards will sign the bill into law.