Sandra Parrish, Child sex abuse victims ask lawmakers for more time to sue their abusers, WSBradio

By Sandra Parrish

Atlanta —

State House members hear testimony from adult victims of child sexual abuse who are calling for more time to be able to go after their abusers in court.

House Bill 17, which is called the Hidden Predator Act, would extend the statute of limitations for victims to file a lawsuit from five to 35 years once the victim reaches age 18.

Angela Williams, founder of Voice Today which advocates for such victims, was sexually abused by her now deceased stepfather from the age of 3 to 17.  She tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish the median age for a victim to disclose the abuse is 40.

“We really need time for an adult to be able to process the trauma, to be able to heal, and to have the courage to face the perpetrator,” she says.

Often times the abuser is a family member, pastor, coach or other trusted figure of authority that the victim doesn’t feel they can report.

“They are threatened and they are very scared about alienating the entire family when they come out and tell the truth,” says Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York.

As a nationwide advocate for change, she says Georgia is one of the five worst states in the country for access to justice for child sex abuse victims.

Lori Kennedy was a high school student when she was raped daily by the attorney for whom she was interning. It wasn’t until years later she realized she, in fact, was a victim of child sexual abuse.

“I had so just tried to put it behind me that I had not recognized the word abuse applied to me,” she says.

Kennedy, who now tells her story to others as part of a ministry, says she simply wants to make sure her abuser, who is now a judge, doesn’t harm anyone else.

Part of the bill would also allow victims or their legal guardian access to police and other investigation records which are currently off limits.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), was introduced during last year’s session but time ran out before it could be considered by either the House or the Senate.