The Child Victims Act aims to support survivors of childhood sexual abuse

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 6:30 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Wisconsin legislators have proposed a new bill that would help survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

The Child Victims Act extends the amount of time that victims of child sexual abuse can file private lawsuits against their abusers. The new length of time for survivors would be up to 45 years old, the same amount of time that they’re able to file criminal charges.

Sexual assault advocate at Family Resource Center in Eau Claire, Amanda S., said sexual assault is considered one of the most underreported crimes.

State Senator Jesse James of Altoona, co-author of the Child Victims Act, said the bill is working to change that and give survivors of child sexual abuse a change to pursue legal action against their abusers well into adulthood.

“One in four girls and one in 13 boys are sexually assaulted in America. That’s an alarming statistic as far as I’m concerned. In the victims in these acts, they’re not always prepared to pursue any type of legal or civil actions when they’re a child,” James said.

If passed, the bill would change the current law and give survivors until the age of 45 to file private lawsuits and criminal charges.

“I think that signals to survivors that we are recognizing it takes time sometimes to process what they’ve been through and start identifying what they would like to see happen and really take charge of their own healing process,” Amanda S. said.

Wisconsin lawmakers had previously introduced legislation in 2009 that would have completely eliminated the time limit for civil action, but it faced heavy opposition.

“There was many groups that came out in lobbying against this effort and actually with the groups that came out and killed the bill ultimately last session,” James said.

“There is going to be frustration regardless of what the specifics of the law entail. And part of what we do as advocates is to help process those frustrations with individuals and also kind of welcome them to utilize what is available to the fullest extent they are able,” Amanda S. said.

The Child Victims Act has already received bi-partisan support. It still needs to pass both the senate and the assembly, as well as be signed by Governor Tony Evers before becoming a law.