Bills would extend time for sex abuse claims

April 5, 2003

BY CATHLEEN FALSANI RELIGION REPORTER



Two bills approved this week in the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives could make it easier to prosecute cases of clergy sexual abuse of children.

On Friday, state senators approved legislation extending the statute of limitations for criminally prosecuting sex offenses committed against a person under 18. Now, it's 10 years after the child turns 18. The new legislation would extend that to 20 years after the victim's 18th birthday.

The Senate bill, which now goes to the House, also would extend the statute of limitations for lawsuits to be filed in child sex abuse cases.

The House approved a bill Thursday mirroring changes in the civil statute of limitations.

Both bills also mandate that the statute of limitations not begin as long as a victim of child sexual abuse remains "subject to threats, intimidation, manipulation or fraud."

Childhood victims of clergy sexual abuse and their advocates said they hope the bills become law. Rick Springer of the victims advocacy group the Linkup said it's often difficult for abuse survivors to come forward within existing statutes of limitations.

"There are so many factors involved in coming forward, and one of the most compelling is the fact that the victim often feels, even if they come forward, who's going to believe them?" Springer said. "Who's going to believe their accusation against the good father?"

Ken Kaczmarz recently filed a lawsuit against John Murphy, a former Roman Catholic priest. Kaczmarz and another man claim Murphy sexually abused them 30 years ago at a South Side parish.

"These child molesters stole our voice," Kaczmarz said. "And we now are going to have the vehicle to get it back."

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