Setback for SOL Reform in South Dakota
To the dismay of survivors and advocates in South Dakota, critically needed reform was voted down in the state House of Representatives today. We hope that legislation to change the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse will continue to be introduced during every session until the South Dakota's lawmakers finally recognize the need for this importance change.
HB 1196 was an opportunity to prevent future cases of sexual abuse and help survivors heal by reforming the civil statute of limitations in South Dakota. Such reform has been taken up by dozens of states in the past two years as more and more lawmakers respond to the problem of sexual violence against children and look for opportunities to protect today’s boys and girls and support victims of those crimes. Unfortunately, the latest chance for this necessary change in South Dakota was defeated.
We are disappointed in lawmakers like Rep. Timothy Johns, who refused to vote for this needed legislation that would have held institutions responsible for abuse, not just perpetrators. The simple fact is that there are institutions within South Dakota, such as St. Joseph’s Indian School, that failed in their duty to protect children under their care and should be held responsible. What Rep. Johns may consider “very poor public policy” is in fact a needed bulwark against institutional irresponsibility, minimization, and cover-up. Across the country we have seen that institutions like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts have used their power and influence to protect predators rather than children, and we believe that they must surely be made to answer for the life-long damage this caused innocent lives. Since the institutions shielded the perpetrators from criminal prosecution, lawsuits for damages are the only way to expose these “hidden predators.”
We hope that survivors, advocates, and activists in South Dakota are not deterred but this setback, but will continue working to change this law for the benefit of children and survivors. We stand with them and look forward to the day when South Dakota steps out of the dark ages and starts to protect boys and girls instead of abusers and those who enable them.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)