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Legislation advances to eliminate statute of limitations for sexual abuse and assault cases

DES MOINES – Today, the Iowa Senate moved to advance legislation that would eliminate the civil and criminal statute of limitations for sexual abuse and assault cases. Senate Study Bill 3032, introduced last week by Sen. Brad Zaun, seeks to remove the statute of limitations for sexual abuse in the first, second, or third degree. This move would provide additional legal remedies for survivors of sexual abuse and assault. The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault has registered in support of this bill. The coalition appreciates the public support from Senator Zaun, Janet Petersen, and Dan Dawson for moving this important legislation forward. The bill will move to the Senate floor for debate.

“We see time and time again that it can take years or even decades before a survivor of sexual abuse or assault feels comfortable to come forward,” said Beth Barnhill, Executive Director for the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “Trauma that occurs when someone is sexually assaulted makes it difficult for survivors—especially for children—to articulate the details of what happened to them. The devastating impacts of sexual abuse and assault do not go away after 10 to 15 years, and neither should the penalty. Ultimately, we believe survivors deserve justice and healing, no matter how long it takes.”

Sexual abuse and assault is among the most under-reported crime in the nation, and only about 12 percent of childhood sexual abuse cases are ever reported to the authorities. The statute of limitations on sexual abuse and assault oft)entimes prevents these kinds of cases from being prosecuted, in spite of existing evidence or confessions. In 2019 alone, 24 states and the District of Columbia passed bills to reform their statute of limitations laws. The current statute of limitations in Iowa for first, second, and third degree sexual abuse, incest, and sexual exploitation by a counselor, therapist, or school employee is 15 years after a victim’s eighteenth birthday (SF589).

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