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Legislators introduce Child Victims Act

November 23, 2011

The following story was published in on November 22, 2011.

Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) and Representative Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay) today announced that they will introduce landmark legislation aimed at protecting victims of sexual abuse by removing the civil statute of limitations in sex assault and rape cases involving children. The legislation, dubbed “The Child Victims Act” is modeled after successful laws in several states that now hold offenders accountable for sexually assaulting children regardless of when those crimes were perpetrated.

Sen. Lassa said the recent allegations of child sexual abuse at Penn State demonstrate that more needs to be done to identify predators and stop them before they reoffend.

“The Penn State situation is another tragic reminder that pedophiles, if given the opportunity, will continue to seek out new victims,” said Lassa. “Research has shown that these child molesters will have over 80 to 100 victims during a lifetime and will continue to victimize children well into their 60s and beyond. The Child Victims Act gives us a tool to help reveal more of these criminals and keep offenders from preying on other innocent children.”

Under current state law, civil actions in childhood sexual abuse cases must be brought forward by victims before they reach the age of 35. The Child Victims Act will remove this arbitrary limitation that has shut the courthouse doors to many survivors of childhood sex abuse who haven’t been able to deal with the attack until much later in their lives.

Seventy percent of reported sexual assaults in Wisconsin are perpetrated against juveniles; one in five American children fall victim to sexual abuse or exploitation by the age of 18. According to several leading mental health experts, most children who have been sexually assaulted or raped are so traumatized they are not able to speak about their attack until well into adulthood, if ever. With ninety percent of sexual abuse cases going unreported nationally, the perpetrators of these horrific crimes know that they can continue to prey on a new generation of victims without fear of prosecution.

“Childhood sexual abuse is a serious and alarming epidemic that has devastating consequences on our children and communities,” said Rep. Pasch. “This bill would remove arbitrary barriers that prevent victims of these unconscionable acts from receiving the justice they deserve, while helping prevent more children from being subjected to sexual abuse in the future.”

“By repealing the state’s statute of limitations for civil suits filed by victims of childhood sexual abuse, the Child Victims Act will put these predators on alert,” Lassa said. “They will no longer be given safe haven in our communities and in our courts and their victims will finally be given the opportunity to expose them once and for all.”

Lassa and Pasch said they introduced the legislation because ensuring survivors their day in court no matter how long it takes for them to confront their abuser is an important step to not only ease the victim’s suffering, but to also help prevent sex crimes against children in the future.

“These acts not only damage the moral fabric of our community, but they also hurt our society economically as victims develop serious mental health issues, utilize costly services, and experience decreased productivity throughout their lifetime,” said Rep. Pasch. “Victims of child sexual assault often are not able to seek justice from their perpetrators for decades, if ever. In turn, this bill would allow victims to swiftly pursue justice and shift the burden of these shameful acts back to those who chose to victimize our most vulnerable.”

The Child Victims Act is supported by the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children (NAPSAC), a group of survivors and advocates who have joined forces to bring comprehensive changes to sex offender laws around the country. Several leading victims’ rights groups and sexual assault prevention experts have also endorsed the bill, such as: The Wisconsin Coalition of Sexual Assault, the National Association of Social Workers, the Children’s Hospital and Health System and its affiliated agencies and programs: (the Children’s Service Society Wisconsin, Prevent Child Abuse Wisconsin, the Child Abuse Prevention Fund and the Child Protection Center, the Child Advocacy Center of North Central Wisconsin), Stop Child Predators, and the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children.


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