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Proposed bills look to extend statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims

The current statute stands at three years for a victim that has reported an incident to law enforcement.

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North Dakota representatives are working towards a bill that would give victims of child sexual assault more time to prosecute a case. WDAY file photo

BISMARCK — North Dakota legislators are pushing a series of bills related to the prosecution of child abuse cases.

Three bills in the North Dakota House of Representatives are looking to extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of a minor from three to 10 years.

Rep. Austen Schauer, R-West Fargo, sponsors all three bills, and he believes the extension of these limitations would heal many wounds caused by alleged abusers.

"A perpetrator can escape criminal prosecution by watching the clock," he said. "The question is, can a victim escape the emotional and psychological damage by watching the same clock?"

Opponents of these bills say the language in them isn't clear enough, and it would discourage victims from disclosing a case to law enforcement, but supporters say the bills would encourage victims to report incidents earlier than usual.

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"I can understand that reaction (from those who oppose the bills), but it really doesn't take into account the effects these assaults and trauma can have," said Zach Hiner, the executive director for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, who spoke at the House's judiciary hearings on the bills Wednesday, Feb. 3.

According to CHILD USA, the average age for reporting child sexual abuse cases is 52 years old, and Department of Justice numbers show about 86% of cases go unreported.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Tanner Robinson is a producer for First News on WDAY-TV.
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