Steadily Advancing LA Bill Will Give Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse More Time To Seek Justice

Back of St. Louis Cathedral with Shadow of Statue of Jesus Christ, Royal Street, Between St. Ann and St. Peter, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana” by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

HB 492 will open a “window to justice” giving survivors of childhood sexual assault more time to report their abuse. The bill advanced in the Louisiana Senate, and was sent to the Louisiana House. If the bill passes, it will head to Governor John Bel Edwards’ desk for his signature. 

Previously, victims of childhood sex abuse only had until 10 years after their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. This legislation will expand that prescriptive period to 35 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. 

This measure is important because it’s extremely common for survivors to suppress their memories of abuse for decades, which means under current laws, many never receive the opportunity to seek justice. 

“Louisiana can now say that their laws statutes of limitations on child sex crimes now better fit with the science around childhood trauma and the scientific reality of delayed disclosure,”

Zach Hiner, the executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) commented. “By opening the halls of justice, this reform will also enable survivors to bring forward critical information into the public domain about abusers and enablers, helping create safer, more informed communities and helping the public hold culpable those who would hurt children and cover up their crimes.”

Advocates are hopeful this measure will prevent future cases of abuse by getting more information about abusers to the police, prosecutors, and the public.

Russ Hebron, the Leader of SNAP New Orleans commented, “We know that allowing survivors to have their day in court leads to justice and prevention for all. For survivors, it’s another step towards healing.” 

According to a press release from SNAP, “HB 492 would open a “window to justice” for 5 years that would allow anyone who had been time-barred by the statute of limitations to come forward, file a lawsuit, and help get important information about abusers and enablers into Louisiana communities.”

The backing for this legislation has been notably bipartisan, with representatives recognizing that the legislation will not only benefit survivors, but also vulnerable populations in their communities. The wide support of the bill reflects the notion many survivors stand by that it should have been passed long ago. 

Richard Windmann, the President of Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse (SCSA), commented, 

“SCSA applauds any legislation that affords survivors and victims an avenue for justice for the unspeakable horrors that they endured while they were innocent children. We are very grateful to the Representatives and Senators who dedicated themselves to get this historical legislation through the legislative bodies, and we look forward to Governor Edwards signing this bill into law upon passing the house.”

The bill will allow lawsuits to be brought against the “party” responsible for the abuse, meaning that institutions could be held accountable for abuse perpetrated by their staff or volunteers. For victims of childhood sex abuse who were assaulted by Catholic priests, this means they could actually hold the church accountable. 

“We hope that this news will encourage other survivors of childhood sexual violence to feel empowered to come forward and name their abuser,” Hiner commented. “This will help current survivors heal and can prevent future cases of sexual violence from happening in the future.”

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