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House Passes Bill to Give Sex-abuse Victims More Time to Seek Justice

Brian Grimmett

The Utah House passed a bill today that would allow victims of sexual abuse to bring civil action against alleged perpetrators, even after the statute of limitations has expired.

Last year state lawmakers passed House Bill 277, which abolished the statute of limitations for sex-abuse victims who were 22 or younger as of March 23, 2015.  

“We thought if we protected children going forward that would be a good step for the future,” says Republican State Representative Ken Ivory. The bill barred anyone who was older than 22 by even a day from bringing their claims. That’s why, when the bill passed, Ivory says, he started getting phone calls from victims. 

“People that have lived in Utah as children and they would tell me their horrifying story of their experiences as a child and then they would ask does 277 help me?” Ivory says. “And I would ask them, how old were you on March 23, 2015? And invariably they were older than 22 and I would have to say no, I am sorry.”

This year, with House Bill 279, Ivory wants to make more victims eligible to bring claims by providing a window of 35 years of the victim’s 18th birthday.

Five lawmakers voted against the bill, including republican Representative Fred Cox, who worried he would be voting to pass a retroactive or ex post facto law, which is unconstitutional.

“I just don’t understand why we can do this,” Cox says.  “Whether it’s a good idea or not.”

Ivory disagreed, however. He argued his bill does not criminalize acts that were legal when committed, as sex abuse was already a crime.

HB 279 now moves to the Senate for consideration. 

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