More than 150 women came forward with harrowing testimony at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar — former physician for the USA Gymnastics team and Michigan State University — who sexually abused athletes instead of providing medical treatment. On January 24, after seven days of survivors’ statements, a judge sentenced Nassar up to 175 years in prison for his crimes. “I just signed your death warrant,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said upon delivering the sentence. He has already been sentenced to 60 years on federal child pornography charges.
This case, aside from raising a lot of public noise, inspired new bill - Senate Bill 872 will extend the statute of limitations for victims of criminal sexual abuse.
Currently, people who are sexually abused as children in Michigan generally have until their 19th birthdays to sue. Under the legislation, child victims abused in 1993 or later could sue until their 48th birthdays while those assaulted in adulthood would have 30 years to file a claim from the time of the abuse.
A large number of victims don’t want to speak out and pursue justice because of trauma they experienced and often child molesters remain unpunished. Advocates for change say giving victims just a year to sue after turning 18 protects child molesters because survivors often wait to report the abuse due to fear or because they repressed it. It is unclear if the statute of limitations or others bills could be revised.
Michigan Catholic Conference spokesman David Maluchnik confirmed Tuesday that extending the statute of limitations is “of concern” to the church’s lobbying arm, but he withheld further comment until the bill’s impact could be fully reviewed. He said the group supports other parts of a 10-bill package introduced Monday, including a measure that would add more people to the list of those who must report suspected abuse to child protective services.
In the mid-2000s, Michigan courts ruled that men who said they had been molested by priests decades earlier had waited too long to sue. The plaintiffs and victims’ rights advocates turned to the Republican-controlled Legislature for help, but the legislation died.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said that the Catholic Church is concerned that the statute of limitations bill could “open up other things that have been closed,” and “I think they have some valid concerns.” He declined to say if he wants to amend the legislation, though.
It is unknown how many victims of sexual abuse would benefit from the measure, or the potential financial implications for the Catholic Church.
Many people who were sexually abused need time and courage to speak out, and the fact that the Catholic Church is known for siding with abusers over the abused only makes it harder for them to seek justice. That’s why this bill should have retroactive effect.
Photo Credits: New Love Times