Sens. Paul Boyer and Heather Carter — lead sponsor and co-sponsor, respectively, of the Arizona Child Protection Act (AZCPA) — co-hosted a seminar at the South Mountain Community Library in Phoenix on August 19 to inform the public of the new legislation and answer questions about the act intended to aid sexual abuse victims.
The AZCPA changes the statute of limitations for filing suits against perpetrators of sexual abuse of a child, as a University of Mew Hampshire study claims 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be a victim of sexual abuse before they turn 18.
Before the act was put into place, claims of childhood sexual abuse had to be filed before the victim reached the age of 20. Now, survivors both over and under the age of 30 have their chance to file civil suits extended. The AZCPA allows survivors born on or before May 26, 1999, when the legislation was enacted, a one-time, 18-month period to file a civil suit that lasts until December 31, 2020.
Survivors born on or after May 27, 1999, have until they turn 30 — 10 more years than original law — to file a civil suit.
Among those thankful for the new legislation is Bridie Farrell, a former U.S. speedskater who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, and now speaks around the country as part of the Zero Abuse Project. The legislation, led by the two senators, cannot change her past, but can help to give some peace to those who experience the same crimes.
“I have been public with my story for six and a half years, and I’ve never met someone who has stood up, without even knowing me, but has stood up. I’m talking nobody in the Olympic Committee, nobody in USA Speedskating, with all due respect no one in my family, no one in the U.S. State Legislature than Sen. Paul Boyer,” Farrell said.
“And she (Sen. Carter) stood up, too, and said that whatever it takes we’ll get this bill passed.”
Boyer, R-Glendale, said when he sponsored the AZCPA, he was contacted by several members of the community who were victims of similar abuse to what the act hopes to prevent. Many of them felt they had no legal recourse until now to attain justice for the crimes committed against them.
This legislation, he said, is something he is both proud of and hopes will serve as a first step in lowering rates or ending childhood sexual abuse.
“This is one of those issues where you can look back and say, ‘If I did nothing else with my life, this is very satisfying.’ Just knowing that it helps in protecting kids is a big deal for me,” Boyer said.
Carter, R-Cave Creek, also said the passed legislation, though it only technically affects Arizona, will help victims of other states to attain their own justice, as there are several states that are modeling their own legislation on sexual abuse suits on the Arizona method.
“It’s a model for the rest of the country to follow as well,” she said.
There are still many steps to take, in the eyes of both senators and those associated with the AZCPA. One course of action, they said, is put together preventative plan to keep this type of crime from happening in the future, including raising awareness in schools, churches and “other places where a kid can be a kid.”
For now, the passing of the AZCPA is still, they believe, a cause for celebration.
“Anything we can do to stop this type of abuse is huge,” Boyer said. “Nobody deserves that, and we hope that this can be a start to something even bigger.”