House Bill 17, also known as the “Hidden Predator Act” has really got my buttons all kinds of pushed. The bill, pre-filed back in December and now making its way to the Judiciary committee, seeks to extend the statute of limitations on sexual assaults, battery, child molestation and things of the like from 5 years to 35 years…from the day victims reach adulthood. It would also allow for a blanket grace period of two years for anyone who previously missed out filing for a civil case under current law giving them from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2017 to take legal action. (Smells like ‘not due process’).
We should note that these atrocities do happen to children and many times, nothing is filed until adulthood whether it be because they cannot tell a parent, they don’t want to tell a parent or they simply don’t understand that what happened to them is wrong. The reason doesn’t matter. Current law allows for victims to come forward for up to 5 years following their 18th birthday.
So, the question becomes: how many years after a sexual assault should someone be allowed by law to file for civil recourse?
To put it plainly, there are a couple of reasons I don’t believe the current law should be changed:
- Victims of assault are either going to come forward or they aren’t. This is something we know. Many people spend years coping with these things silently and privately and it usually has nothing to do with a statute of limitations for civil recourse.
- 35 years from the age of 18 is a long time. That’s age 53. And that’s assuming that the assault happened during the late teen years. For those who became victims at an even younger age, memories could be dating back 50 years. No offense to my older friends but depending on whether or not a criminal case produced a conviction, I have a hard time believing the case could be adequately assessed with little to no evidence other than “he said, she said.”
- Civil damages don’t fix anything. Placing a dollar amount on a life-changing events cheapens what happens to many people. While at age 18 you may have no idea how a victim will manifest the pain and suffering, age 53 gives them far too much leeway of life mistakes and glitches which may or may not be associated with an assault. We would basically open the door for extortion.
- Allowing victims who were previously not able to come forward because of a statute of limitations to retroactively file a suit during a two-year grace period is not how our justice system is supposed to work.
I ranted about this issue on Facebook and the public responses were interesting, but the private responses were more compelling. I heard from lawyers, who aren’t usually my go-to on these types of things, who urged that this was not a good idea and not good law. I also heard from a few victims. Some who were victimized as children and some as adults. Not one of them was in favor of the legislation.
Altering the statute of limitations in cases like this will not increase the amount of justice served. Our legal system doesn’t serve as a “catch all” for justice and we shouldn’t expect for legislation to enable to do so.
It’s a sensitive subject and my heart aches for every victim, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out about consequences of legislation. I think the intent is good and pure, but I don’t believe it will accomplish its intentions. 35 years for a statute of limitations is simply too long, and a backdated chance at civil justice isn’t in the best interest of our state. Please oppose, and ask your representatives to oppose, House Bill 17.