Kathy Picard of Ludlow and Gov. Deval Patrick celebrate bill extending statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse, Suzanne McLaughlin, Mass Live

LUDLOW – A new bill has been signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick that extends the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims to file suit against their abusers.

The new law allows any childhood sex abuse victim up to the age of 53 to file civil charges against their alleged abuser. Prior to the passage of the new law sex abuse victims only had until age 21 to file civil suits against their abusers.

The law was signed by Patrick after it was unanimously approved in the House and Senate.

Kathy Picard, 51, of Ludlow, who says she is the victim of childhood sexual abuse, says she worked for 12 years for passage of the bill. She said she now has filed suit against a male family member who abused her between the ages of 7 and 17.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse should have the right to seek justice, Picard said. She said there is no statute of limitation for charging that someone committed murder.

“Childhood sexual abuse is the murder of a person’s innocence,” she said.

Picard said she told family members about her own childhood sexual abuse which took place between the ages of 7 and 17 and was advised to keep quiet about it.

Picard said she has worked to change the statute of limitations for 12 years.

In 2006, the criminal statute of limitations pertaining to childhood sexual abuse was extended from 15 years after the 16th birthday to 27 years.

“That happened when all the priest abuse (accusations) came out, and I thought, it’s not just priest abuse,” said Picard.

“This new law increases the statue of limitations to 35 years after a victim of sexual abuse’s 18th birthday to file a civil suit against their abuser,” Picard said. “The prior law gave victims only until their 21st birthday to file suit. Giving more survivors until the age of 53 will open doors for many.”

Picard plans to celebrate the new law with a reception on Aug. 23 at Samuel’s Sports Bar at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. Tickets are $25 per person. Picard said she is trying to raise money to support the curriculum she teachers at the YMCA of Greater Springfield. Picard teaches children how to recognize and report sexual abuse through the Child Help, Speak Up, Be Safe program.

Picard said one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of childhood sexual abuse.

For more information or if you would like to attend, email Kathy Picard at kathychildadvocate@gmail.com