Child Victims Act heard in Senate committee

A bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for childhood victims of sexual abuse to sue their abusers got its first hearing Thursday.

The Minnesota Child Victims Act would eliminate the requirement that victims file civil suits within six years of becoming an adult. Supporters of the measure say it can take decades for people who were sexually abused as children to come forward.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill on a vote of 5-3, and sent it to the full Senate. The House Civil Law Committee will take up the bill next Wednesday.

Grace Keliher from the Minnesota School Boards Association said the association supports strengthening penalties against abusers. But the proposal as it is written would make it difficult for school districts to defend against claims of past abuse in cases where detailed records may not have been kept, she said.

"To do that, school districts would have to pay for the investigation and attorney's fees if any are incurred out of their general education programs," Keliher said. "This would take money out of the classroom, out of after school, before school and extracurricular programs."

Former NFL player Al Chesley was abused by a police officer in his Washington, D.C. neighborhood when he was 13. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bill would make it possible for people like him to hold their abusers accountable.

"It will allow victims to expose predators so parents will be able and know to keep their young ones away from the predators. I know if my mother and father had known that the police officer down the block was a child molester, they would have kept me away from him. No one had warned them."

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