R.I. General Assembly passes bill to extend sex-abuse statute of limitations

PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island General Assembly has passed legislation to give the victims of sexual abuse more time to sue the priests, teachers, coaches and others who molested them when they were children.

After a weeks-long standoff over conflicting versions of the bill, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a version of the bill introduced by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee on behalf of her sister, Annie, with only one significant change. Shortly afterward, the full Senate unanimously voted to approve the legislation. The House then voted, 70-to-1, to send the bill to the governor.

Rep. Brian Newberry, R-North Smithfield, was the only lawmaker to vote no.

“This is Annie’s bill,″ said an emotional McEntee, who introduced the legislation in the name of her now 66-year-old sister, Ann Hagan Webb, who was sexually molested repeatedly by their family’s parish priest in West Warwick for a period of seven years that began, she has testified, when she was 5 years old.

“This is a scourge on our society,″ McEntee said. “You’ve seen it all over the country, all over the globe, and we’re not different here in Rhode Island,” but now “we are giving the victims their day in court, the day they so much deserve after so much wrong has been committed on them.”

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