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Child Abuse Victims Seek Justice

Posted at: 04/17/2013 10:38 PM
Updated at: 04/17/2013 10:45 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- A new bill in the Minnesota legislature aims to protect some of the state’s most vulnerable, and yet it still faces staunch opposition from some major organizations.

The Minnesota Child Victims Act would allow people who were victims of sexual abuse as children to pursue legal action against their abusers no matter how much time has passed since the abuse occurred.

Under current Minnesota law, a person who was sexually abused as a child cannot file suit against their abuser after their 24th birthday.

It's a statute of limitations that's left countless victims without a means to seek justice.

“I’ve personally seen the consequences of this arbitrary deadline in current law,” said Joel Juers who said he was sexually abused as a 14-year-old while attending Shattuck-St. Mary's school in Faribault. “This legislation would have helped me and I don't want to see others denied justice the way I was."

At age 33 Juers finally felt comfortable enough to come forward and seek punishment against his alleged abuser, but the case was thrown out because too much time had passed, despite the fact that his alleged abuser admitted to the crime.

“It left something unhealed,” Juers said. “It was like justice was not completely carried out."

It's a scenario the bill's chief author says should never happen again.

“For victims of this kind of abuse, they deserve a day in court,” said Rep. Steve Simon (DFL – Hopkins). “Their families deserve that day in court and the communities they live in deserve that day in court."

Still, some organizations oppose the legislation for fear that they will be held liable for offenses that occurred years, even decades earlier.

Advocates say the burden of proof still lies with the accuser, and that seeking legal action can be a critical part of the healing process.

“Emotionally there's just no question about it,” Rep. Simon said. “It can help make people whole, maybe not completely whole, but help kind of fill the gap and fill the void that they've been feeling for so long in their lives."

Juers said his experience did have one positive outcome: he said he’s more compassionate because he knows what it is to suffer.

The Minnesota Child Victims Act is expected to come up for a vote in the next two weeks.