Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sexual Offenders Need to be Held Accountable

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Today, Senator Amanda Aguirre called on legislative Republicans to hear SB 1292, a measure regarding civil actions brought by persons subjected to sexual offenses as a minor, in the Senate Rules committee.
“Our laws do not adequately protect child abuse victims,” said Aguirre. “We have an opportunity to amend our laws to allow abusers be brought to justice. Not making these changes allows offenders to continue the cycle of abuse.”

SB 1292 eliminates the civil statute of limitation for a child sex abuse victim to bring a cause of action against the person or entity that perpetrated the abuse or negligently allowed it to happen. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary committee on Feb. 22 by a bipartisan and unanimous vote of 7-0.

“I have made numerous attempts to work with President Bob Burns and the insurance industry, but their decision is to hold this bill and not allow victims to hold predators accountable for their actions in a civil court within a reasonable amount of time,” said Aguirre.

The bill also creates a one-year "window" of time that allows adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse to bring an action against the persons who abused them. Many child sexual abuse cases are not prosecuted; this bill creates a tool for many victims to hold the perpetrator accountable in civil court. The “window” applies to those survivors whose civil statute of limitations has already expired and who have not already sued the persons who abused them.

SB 1292 is important because it exposes sexual predators and holds them accountable for the harm they have caused. When sex offenders are not held accountable for their behavior, they are more likely to continue to sexually abuse other children; the freedom to continue abusing results in more assaults on children and more victims.

Support the Arizona Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention Act SB 1292

What is SB 1292?
SB1292 eliminates the civil statute of limitation for a child sex abuse victim to bring a cause of action against the person or entity that perpetrated the abuse or negligently allowed it to happen.

The bill also creates a one-year "window" of time that allows adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse to bring an action against the persons who abused them. Many child sexual abuse cases are not prosecuted; this bill creates a tool for many victims to hold the perpetrator accountable in civil court. The “window” applies to those survivors whose civil statute of limitations has already expired and who have not already sued the persons who abused them.

What is the current civil statute of limitations and how does this bill change that law?
Under current Arizona law, to sue a sexual abuser of a child, an adult survivor of that childhood sexual abuse must file that lawsuit by the time he or she turns the age of 20. The reason for this is that Arizona has a 2-year statute of limitations, but the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the child reaches the age of 18.

How does Arizona law compare with other states?
Arizona has one of the most restrictive civil statutes of limitation in the nation for victims of child sex abuse. 44 other states offer some type special provision for victims of childhood sexual abuse.

What about criminal prosecution?
Less than 10% percent of child molesters are prosecuted. Most victims of childhood sexual abuse are too young or confused to realize that they are being harmed by an abuser, and most child sex offenders successfully intimidate witnesses, threaten victims, destroy evidence, and otherwise prevent victims from disclosing the abuse.

Why should there be no statute of limitations?
Many adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse are not able to file a lawsuit during the time period currently allowed by law. Childhood sexual abuse is by its very nature secret. The abuse is often the end result of a grooming process through which the perpetrator pressures the victim to keep the abuse secret or carefully selects victims whom the perpetrator believes will not tell others about the abuse. Injuries caused by childhood sexual abuse include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, debilitating depression and suicide attempts. Sometimes these symptoms do not develop until the victim is an adult. Because of these injuries, and the threats and intimidation that often accompany them, many victims are unable to file a lawsuit during the time allowed.

Why is this bill important?
SB 1292 is important because it exposes sexual predators and holds them accountable for the harm they have caused. When sex offenders are not held accountable for their behavior, they are more likely to continue to sexually abuse other children; the freedom to continue abusing results in more assaults on children and more victims.

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