April 22, 2019

Texas Child Sexual Assault Bill Would Extend Time to Sue Abusers

The Texas House of Representatives is considering a child sexual assault bill that would double the statute of limitations for survivors to sue their abusers for personal injury. The bill would expand the time limits for sex assault civil lawsuits from 15 years to 30 years.

State Representative Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, filed the bill. According to Goldman, he “wants to give those children more time to step forward and file personal injury claims against those who hurt them.”

Child sexual assault survivor advocates are applauding the move. Policy Analyst with the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault said he considers HB 3809 “one of the most consequential bills dealing with sexual assault this session.”

North Texas activist Shanna Poteet also voiced her adamant support of the bill.

“It’s something that people live with for a very long time. I know many people who seek help many years later,” Poteet said.

Poteet is the creator and administrator of the Facebook page “Love & Justice for Sherin “Saraswati” Mathews.” She created the page for a Texas 2-year-old who went missing in October 2017. Authorities found her body two weeks later in a culvert. Evidence indicates that the toddler’s adoptive parents severely abused her.

Child Sexual Assault Legislation Considered Throughout US

Texas is the third state this year to consider legislation to expand child sexual assault time limits for filing civil lawsuits against abusers.

According to the founder and CEO of Child USA, Marci Hamilton, this year, 35 states are deciding on legislation to expand time limits for filing sex abuse claims.

“This is the most active year in history on statute of limitations issues,” Hamilton said.

Recently, New York expanded its civil sexual abuse statute of limitations. Dozens of other states, including California, are considering similar legislation.

“I think we’ve reached a point where the public is finally 100 percent behind the victims,” Hamilton said. “Nobody seems to be afraid anymore of the institutions.”

Advocates attribute this increased legislative action to last year’s Pennsylvania grand jury report on sex abuse in the church, as well as sexual harassment reporting by the media in the face of the #MeToo movement, shedding new light on sexual abuse and assault.

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