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Iowa gets a failing grade in protecting children from sexual abuse. Advocates say Iowa can do better by eliminating the

civil statute of limitations on child sexual abuse. Legislation to do that has already been written and could be passed before the 2022 legislative session ends.


Currently, civil suits require survivors of child sex abuse to file against their abuser before they turn 19. If a therapist, counselor or school employee was the abuser, survivors ability to seek damages expires just five years after leaving school or ending counseling – so they may be barred from seeking damages before they turn 19.

Senate File 32 would remove the civil statute of limitations for Iowans who were abused as minors. Making this change would allow more child sex abuse survivors to come forward as adults and seek justice. This step would build on a bill we passed last year to eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal charges.

Iowa native Kylie DeWees, a victim, advocate and law student, said the bill would also push institutions to set a higher bar for the people they employ by allowing survivors to sue organizations, schools or clubs, rather than just individuals. Kylie gave her first-hand account of how abusers and schools escape justice during a Statehouse news conference Monday. Watch Kylie’s story.

Kathryn Robb is executive director of ChildUSAdvocacy, a nonprofit aimed at keeping kids safe from abuse. She says one in five girls and one in 13 boys are sexually assaulted before they turn 18, but under current Iowa law, those victims are barred from seeking civil damages against their abuser the day they turn 19.

So far, 27 states have changed their laws to provide an opportunity for justice once a victim has matured and is able to confront their abuser, and 17 states have completely eliminated their statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.

Reforming the statute of limitations can help expose hidden predators in our communities and protect more kids from becoming victims. Iowa needs this legislation to stop abusers and punish the institutions that protect them.

Senate Democratic Leaders Wahls and Konfrst have agreed to push the issue forward as a leadership bill. To do so, Republican Leaders must agree to a leadership bill as well. You can find their contact information at legis.iowa.gov/legislators/leadership.

Author: Janet Petersen

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