Lawmakers hope 4th time is the charm with Child Victims Act - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Lawmakers hope 4th time is the charm with Child Victims Act

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is once again trying to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex abuse lawsuits.

Once an adult reaches the age of 35 in Wisconsin, they lose their right to file a civil lawsuit over any sexual abuse they suffered as a child.

The Child Victims Act would remove that limitation, but its already failed three times before.

Counselors at Rape Crisis Center treat adults who were sexually abused as children and say many don't come to grips with that abuse by their 30s.

"We've actually worked with clients in their 60s and 70s who were actually telling someone for the first time about what happened to them as a child," said Kelly Anderson, Executive Director of the Rape Crisis Center.

That's why child abuse counseling and prevention groups from around the state support the measure.

"So often what we hear from victims is they want them to know it was wrong, they want an apology, they want him to be held accountable and sometimes a civil case may be the only outlet to try to make that happen," said Anderson.

But the bill's author, Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) knows it won't be easy to pass, even though a number of Republican legislators have also signed on as co-sponsors.

"The Catholic Church has always been opposed to it...Wisconsin Family Action," said Sen. Lassa.

On January 12, 2010 it wasn't just church officials, but even a future U.S. Senator who testified against it.

"I believe it is a valid question whether the employer of a perpetrator should also be severely damaged, possibly destroyed in our legitimate desire for justice," said Sen. Ron Johnson, then speaking as a private citizen and volunteer for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay.

Individuals and organizations that have consistently spoke out against the measure say it would do more harm than good and that only trial attorneys would benefit financially.

But Sen. Lassa says the priority should be looking out for the victims.

"We know that victims suffer a lifetime with issues such as depression and anxiety, alcoholism and drug addictions and all sorts of other debilitating problems," said Lassa.

Law enforcement groups have also supported the bill in the past.

Lassa says that's because it would lead to more criminal arrests as it has in California, where a similar law has resulted in the identification of an additional 300 sexual predators.

This newest version of the Child Victims Act has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing.

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