Iowa Senate expands time for child sex abuse victims to bring actions

Taser training for law enforcement officials also moves forward

DES MOINES – Victims of child sexual abuse would have more time as an adult to bring criminal or civil action against adults who preyed upon them when they were minors under a bill passed by the Iowa Senate on Monday.

Senate File 2109, which was approved by a 49-0 margin, would extend the statute of limitation to bring action to 25 years after an abused child had turned 18 years of age. The current limit is 10 years after an abused child attains the age of 18, although some provisions have longer time frame that, too, are extended to 25 years under the legislation that now goes to the Iowa House for consideration.

“This gives child sex abuse survivors a fair chance at justice,” said Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, floor manager of a bill that was amended to also extend statute of limitations for criminal offenses of lascivious acts with a child, assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, indecent contact with a child, lascivious conduct with a minor and sexual misconduct with a juvenile from three years to 10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday.

“For years persons who suffered sexual abuse, often at the hands of trusted family members and friends, have been denied access to justice,” he said, citing “the atrocities of Penn State” and “almost daily” news accounts of horrific crimes against children in advocating for passage of S.F. 2109.

Sodders said the bill “cures” an injustice caused by “unfairly” short time lines for victims of sexual abuse while they were a minor to bring criminal or civil action once they reach adulthood. Such short statutes of limitations “protect predators and silence our victims,” he said.

During subcommittee and committee work, Sodders said, senators heard from experts who indicated it often takes victims until they reach their 40s to understand what happened to them and to come forward. He said historically about 90 percent of child victims never go to authorities and a “vast majority” of claims expire before a victim is capable of speaking about the incident.

Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, said the legislation “will protect children for years to come” in urging his colleagues to vote for the measure.

In other floor action in the Iowa Senate Monday, judges would have the discretion to include pets or companion animals in a protective order covering victims of domestic violence and their minor children under a measure approved by a 49-0 verdict.

Senate File 2118 would provide for temporary or permanent orders to forbid an accused abuser from harming, attacking or taking other threatening action against a pet as a way for a perpetrator to psychologically control others. A judge could issue a contempt citation for violating the order.

Also Monday, senators:

*Voted 49-0 to require Iowa law enforcement officers and jailers to receive standardized training for using Tasers. Under Senate File 2187, all state and local law officers would be required to undergo Taser training at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.

Currently, Iowa has no law requiring such training. The proposed legislation would require officers to be trained in technical uses, along with ethical uses of the devices.

*Voted 49-0 to approve a “silver alert” measure that would direct the state Department of Transportation to post information on its electronic highway signs in circumstances where a “cognitively impaired” person had gone missing in the area for less than 72 hours.

*Voted 47-2 to raise the speed limit for the operation of “mo-ped” motorized bicycles from the current maximum level of 30 mph to 39 mph contained in S.F. 2192.

*Voted 49-0 to extend the state funding supplemental weighting for whole-grade sharing agreements among K-12 school districts for five years. The incentives for districts considering steps for merger or reorganization are slated to expire this fiscal year. “I know there are a number of school districts in rural Iowa that would like to take advantage of this,” said Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, manager of S.F. 2056.

*Voted 49-0 to allow the state Public Employment Relations Board to use an electronic filing and notice system, making House File 2172 the first labor bill sent to Gov. Terry Branstad’s desk by the split-control 85th General Assembly.

*Voted 49-0 to send Branstad a bill (H.F. 2216) reclassify types of off-road utility and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) by altering definitions of off-road utility vehicles into three categories based on weight and width to help determine which areas and trails they can use.

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