Efforts Against Abuse




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
Indianapolis Star
January 28, 2004

An Indiana House committee approved a bill Tuesday that would extend the amount of time victims of sexual abuse could sue their attackers.

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 time.

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 this."

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 dismissed.

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 Indianapolis archdiocese.


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