SNAP Supports Efforts in South Dakota to Reform Statute of Limitations
A bill in the South Dakota House of Representatives could help prevent future cases of sexual abuse and support survivors of sexual abuse today. SNAP stands in support of HB 1196 and we urge legislators in South Dakota to take up and pass this meaningful reform in this session.
By reforming the civil statute of limitations, critical information can be gathered and shared with the public that can help prevent other children from having to face the lifelong scourge of sexual abuse. When survivors are empowered to come forward and file lawsuits against the people that abused them and the institutions that shielded those abusers, parents and the public are armed with more information about perpetrators, their whereabouts and history, and are better able to keep their children and communities safe.
This reform is especially critical because the average age at which a sexual abuse survivor comes forward is 52, long after most civil statutes of limitation have passed. Making matters worse for South Dakotans, clergy are not currently considered mandatory reporters for cases of child sexual abuse, exacerbating the need for survivors to come forward and share knowledge about abusers within their communities.
Another critical element of the reform proposed by HB 1196 is that current South Dakota law does not allow institutions that enabled, covered-up, or minimized abuse allegations to be held liable. This means that the costs for abuse are not absorbed by the institutions responsible and that organizations that recruit, train, ordain and employ abusers are essentially let off scot free. We believe that this dodge of responsibility is wrong and must be remedied.
The simple fact is that current South Dakota statutes are outdated, archaic, and inconsistent with the data and facts regarding how and when sexual abuse survivors come forward. Currently survivors only have 3 years after their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit, a woefully inadequate timeframe and one that even a study conducted within South Dakota proves is too short a window for most survivors. It is clear to us that this reform is badly needed.
We applaud Representatives Shawn Bordeaux and Michael Saba for championing this bill and call on their colleagues in the House of Representatives to vote yes on this necessary reform as soon as possible.