BATON ROUGE, La. — A bill to change the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse from 10 years to 35 years passed with unanimous support in the House Tuesday.
Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, says he brought the bill on behalf of every victim and survivor of child sexual abuse.
The bill will go to the Senate for further debate after passing 102-0 in the House.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country, a child is sexually assaulted every nine minutes. Only 5 in every 1,000 perpetrators, however, will be imprisoned.
National Child Protective Services found strong evidence between 2009 and 2013 that about 63,000 children per year were victims of sexual abuse.
Hughes said the average age at which victims of child abuse come forward about their trauma is 52.
This bill would change the oldest age at which a victim can come forward and get justice from 28 to 53, extending the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse to one year past the average age at which victims report abuse.
Rep. John Stefanksi, R-Crowley, asked why the bill does not eliminate the statute of limitations entirely, ensuring victims a chance for justice regardless of age.
Another point of contention is that the bill is not retroactive, meaning some victims will not have a chance for justice if they come forward after the statute of limitations has expired prior to the bill becoming law.
Hughes said that he would not accept such amendments because he was determined to make sure that the basic bill made it into law.
Stefanski said he hopes the bill will be amended to extend the scope of the victims it protects when it goes to the Senate.
Rep. John Illg, R-River Ridge, voiced his support for the bill, mentioning a friend of his who recently came forward to Illg for the first time about his own childhood sexual trauma.
Hughes said that “surprisingly enough” many victims of child sexual abuse who would not get a chance for justice should the bill pass are still “championing the bill because they know how many victims it will help.”
Hughes also said that this bill is “not the end.”
He said he has gotten letters and emails calling him a hero, but Hughes said the victims, many of whom “were robbed of their childhood and many of them robbed of their adulthood” are the “real heroes.”