Indiana house panel OKs sex abuse bill
Revision would give victims until age 31 to
file lawsuits against their alleged attackers.
By Abe Aamidor and Kevin Corcoran
January 28, 2004
An Indiana House committee approved a bill Tuesday that would
extend the amount of time victims of sexual abuse could sue
The House Judiciary Committee passed the measure, 9-2, despite
opposition from Catholic Church officials, who opposed a provision
that would eliminate the statute of limitations and allow
lawsuits alleging childhood sexual abuse to be filed at any
Before the vote, Rep. Mae Dickinson, D-Indianapolis, author
of House Bill 1061, agreed to a compromise: She removed the
provision permitting lawsuits to be filed at any time but
allowed people to sue through age 30. The bill now heads to
the full House.
Under current law, victims have until age 20 to sue their
attackers. If they were older than 18 when the abuse occurred,
victims have two years to sue.
A dissident Roman Catholic group later rallied outside the
Catholic Center, 1400 N. Meridian St., to protest the church's
opposition to the bill.
"We are the victims, and this bill would help us,"
said Barbara Blaine, one of the rally organizers. "We
believe the church should be out in the forefront supporting
A lawyer for the Indiana Catholic Conference, which represents
all five Indiana dioceses, testified against the bill Tuesday.
As amended, victims would be allowed to sue before their
31st birthdays if these lawsuits are brought after June 30.
The legislation would not reinstate lawsuits that have been
The proposed new deadline extension for bringing civil lawsuits
for damages mirrors the criminal statute of limitations, which
Dickinson got changed in 1993. Indiana law had limited prosecutions
to within five years of the alleged crimes, but prosecutors
can now file charges until victims turn 31.
But insurance companies that would have to pay settlements
and damages oppose the change.
And Senate Republican leaders have indicated they don't want
to make it easier to file and win lawsuits. Sen. Robert Garton,
R-Columbus, has assigned similar legislation filed in the
Senate to a committee that rarely meets.
An archdiocesan spokeswoman said she could not comment on
the opposition to HB 1061 because the Indiana Catholic Conference
represents all Catholic dioceses in the state, not just the