The clock has run out.
You can never get justice for what’s been done to you if you waited too long.
In Arizona, a victim of sexual assault has only two years to file a civil lawsuit against their perpetrator — two years from the age of majority for a child who has been sexually assaulted, or two years from the date of the sexual assault if the victim was an adult.
As such, pedophiles and rapists don’t need to silence their victims forever. They simply need to wait out their victim a paltry two years.
What this means practically is no matter how much evidence exists, no matter how many victims were sexually assaulted by the same person and can corroborate their testimony, the state permanently bars victims from the doors of the court once the statute is up and they are “time barred.”
Since 2003, several other states have changed their statutes to give victims more time, with 47 other states having longer statutes of limitations for victims of child sexual assault. This makes Arizona an outlier.
The short window our young adults have between their 18th and 20th birthdays to hire an attorney, upend their lives and pursue a claim against someone they know may be nearly impossible for the victim — emotionally and even financially, as victims are more likely to experience symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse, job loss, homelessness and physical symptoms due to the repeat exposure to trauma they experienced as a child.
Further, since nine times out of 10 these children are enduring abuse by someone they know and trust, they have to make a decision. If it’s a family member, they have to consider what disclosing their abuse will do to their family relationships. What if no one believes them? What if their family doesn’t care and protects the abuser? Or it could even be a family friend or coach. Quite often, victims are paralyzed from coming forward by the power and threats of their abuser, along with feelings of humiliation, shame, guilt or all the above.
While there is no “magic age” for a victim to come forward and report their abuse, we know that in most cases it takes decades to process the emotional and psychological trauma they’ve experienced as children who have undergone sexual assault.
At the very least, we should give victims seven years from when they realize they were abused, which is what I’m fighting for in the state budget.
Victims need time. Time to come to terms with what happened to them as a child. Time to develop the courage to confront their accuser and get the justice they deserve. Extending our statute of limitations will help identify hidden child predators, hold accountable the institutions that cover for them and protect more children from harm’s way.
I’m not voting on the state budget until we do.