Rep. Mark Schreiber thanked childhood sexual abuse survivors in his House floor introduction of the legislation. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — In little more than a week, the Kansas Legislature considered and overwhelmingly approved a landmark reform to childhood sex abuse law, voting unanimously to expand the timeframe in which survivors can file lawsuits and prosecute abusers.
Rep. Bob Lewis, a Garden City Republican, said the changes would send a message of support to survivors.
“At bottom, the bill will help at least some survivors recover their agency,” Lewis said. “It tells them that they are being heard and listened to. That what happened to them is not right, and that those who abused them or enabled the abuse will be held to account.”
Lawmakers voted Monday to pass Senate Substitute for House Bill 2127 by a 120-0 margin, days after the Senate approved the legislation by a 40-0 vote. The bill removes a statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of childhood sexual abuse and extends the time frame for civil lawsuits involving child sex crimes, among other provisions.
The bill adds childhood sexual abuse to the list of crimes for which a criminal prosecution can be started at any time. Current crimes included on the list include rape, murder and terrorism, among others.
The legislation also allows civil lawsuits for recovery of damages related to this type of abuse within 13 years after the victim turns 18 or three years after an abuser is criminally convicted for a child sex abuse-related crime, whichever occurs later.
This is a change from current law, which mandates that civil lawsuits have to be brought by the time the victim turns 21, or three years after the person discovers injury or illness caused by childhood sexual abuse. Research has shown that many survivors may not be ready to disclose their abuse at an early age, with the average age of disclosure being 50.
The change comes after intensive lobbying and outreach efforts from a group of childhood sexual abuse survivors who have lobbied in the Statehouse entrance since January, advocating for change.
Rep. Mark Schreiber, an Emporia Republican, acknowledged this group during his Monday introduction of the legislation.
“I cannot emphasize enough the work the survivors did to promote and work on this compromise bill,” Schreiber said.
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