In the State of Iowa, the statute of limitations on the sexual abuse of a child is a maximum of ten years. It goes into effect once a victim of sexual abuse turns 18; that person has up to ten years to try and prosecute their abuser.
But there is a relatively new, local organization that is advocating for a change in the statute of limitations when it comes to sex abuse against minors.
Abuse victims with the S.A.A.M. Foundation — a nonprofit dedicated to changing the statute of limitations for Sexual Abuse Against Minors — tell KWQC’s Morgan Ottier that it oftentimes takes longer to cope with the years of sexual abuse and to make the decision to come forward and prosecute.
“I am a victim of sexual abuse myself,” said S.A.A.M. co-founder, Natalie Long. She said it started in the early 1980s, when she was just seven, and it went on for four years.
“Back in that time I think it was more of a hidden, let’s shove it under the rug type of thing,” she said.
“I had to seek help on my own in my later twenties.”
But by age 28, according to Iowa law, it’s too late to prosecute. Once the ten year statute of limitations maximum passes, alleged abusers don’t have to fear prosecution anymore.
Long feels it isn’t fair.
” Somebody has changed who I am, for my entire life,” she said. “They have ten years to worry about whether they have to pay for what they’ve done. I don’t think that’s justice at all.”
“I was an abuse victim myself,” said S.A.A.M. board member, Charity Jensen. “I never got the justice that I feel like I deserve.”
Jensen says she was sexually abused for ten years of her life. She decided to press charges in July of 2013 and thought her nightmare was over.
“And then they told me I was too late,” she said.
The detective on Jensen’s case explained to her that if she came forward earlier, she would have had a good case against her abuser.
“He said the good news is we collected more than enough evidence to convict my molester but unfortunately I was over the statute of limitations by four months,” said Jensen.
“It made me furious, it made me sad.”
The S.A.A.M. Foundation argues there should be no limit on the amount of time a victim needs to cope, to build up the courage to come forward.
“Who knows when you’re actually able to face your accuser. I was 36 years old,” said Long.
But, anger over the statute of limitations is what fuels these women to make change happen.
“I always thought why did it happen to me, why did it happen to me? And I know now that it happened to me because I’m strong enough to make the difference,” Jensen said.
The S.A.A.M. Foundation is holding its first ever Fundraising Gala on Thursday, December 12, 2013. The goal for the fundraiser is to kick start the program and better educate the community. The organization hopes to move forward in rewriting laws to “protect our sexually abused minors.”
The Gala will be held at The Stern Center in Rock Island, Illinois at 6 p.m.