Kansas bill expands statute of limitations on child sexual abuse

The bill would allow for criminal charges to be filed at any time for child sexual assault and expand the timeframe for civil action.
Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 7:41 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Among action taken this week by Kansas lawmakers is the advancement of a bill that gives survivors of childhood sexual abuse more time to take legal action. It’s a change sought by a coalition of survivors, including those of clergy abuse who came up against the statute of limitations to file a case in court.

Getting more time has been a years-long effort of survivors of childhood sexual assault.

“To this day, I feel horrible that I wasn’t strong enough to do more. Unfortunately, no one ever told me there was a timeclock for seeking justice for my abuse,” survivor Kim Bergman said.

A bill unanimously passed by the Kansas House and Senate now waits for the governor’s signature. The bill would add child sexual abuse to crimes that can be tried for criminal prosecution any time and gives more time for survivors to file civil action. This can happen for up to 13 years after survivors turn 18. This is a 10-year-bump from the current limitation of three years.

Civil action also is an option with three years of a criminal conviction.

“It’s an extremely important step for victims’ rights, for the opportunity for victims to be able to seek justice in a variety of different ways,” Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County Executive Director Diana Schunn said.

Schunn supports children who have experienced abuse of trauma from which everyone heals differently.

“Healing really has to be unique and different for each child and that process of what is justice looks very different in each circumstance,” Schunn said.

She said it’s not unusual for survivors to be in adulthood when they disclose the abuse they’d suffered. A report by Child USA said the average age is 52.

Shunn said often, when the trauma is happening on a regular basis, it is hard to recognize it is not a normal situation.

Survivors were pushing for the bill to include a window where those who are beyond the new statute of limitations could seek civil action. This was not included in the bill.