LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — In November, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson revealed findings of a report into child abuse in the state of Nebraska. The report ended up focusing on abuse at the hands of clergy. It found over 250 survivors dating back decades.
A vast majority of the cases found in the report were expired under the statute of limitations, meaning they could not bring charges against abusers named in the investigation.
Now State Senator Rich Pahls, who represents District 31 is setting out to allow the chance for survivors to come out when they're ready and still be able to prosecute.
The current statute of limitations for child sexual assault and misconduct is 33 years. But advocates say the average age in which survivors come forward is 52.
"If we had more time when the survivor is ready to disclose their abuse, we will be able to prosecute more of these offenders hence protecting today’s children because statistics show these guys only get better with time. They don’t stop," said Shaun Dougherty, President of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Dougherty herself is a survivor of child abuse.
Senator Pahls' legislation would eliminate the statute of limitations for child abuse cases.
Advocates say the law is flawed and are calling for reform of the statute of limitations. They say reform would expose hidden predators, protect kids and families, and would shift the cost of the abuse away from survivors and the state and instead onto abusers.
"The law is defective. This is not a slip and fall case, this is not a fender bender case, it's not a breach of contract case. We’re talking about the rape, sodomy, and sexual assault of children," Kathryn Robb, Executive Director of Child U.S. Advocacy and a survivor of child sexual abuse said. "As an attorney, as a citizen of this wonderful country, I believe in due process. I believe in statute of limitations but not for this not for children."
The bill also addresses the implication of third parties in abuse cases, but right now it only addresses private third parties. Opponents of the bill say it shouldn't just address private entities but public ones as well like public schools.
"[The bill] perpetuates inequitable treatment of victims [it] goes out of its way to apply only to private entities, not to public institutions but child sex abuse is pervasive within public institutions," Tom Venzor, Executive Director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference said. "If the goal of this legislation is fairness, justice, and equity for victims, that should be applied across the board."
Senator Pahls says he plans to address that in upcoming bills but they have to start somewhere. He adds he doesn't intend to target the Catholic Church, the findings of the AG's reports just gave him the data he needed to move forward with a bill.