Bill seeks more time for sexual abuse victims to pursue claims

Child sexual abuse victims in Georgia would have 35 years to pursue civil lawsuits against their abusers — 30 more years than currently allowed — under legislation filed Wednesday by state House Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine.

It’s a move, he said, that would empower victims and give them more time to confront their abuser. State law currently allows victims to pursue civil abuse cases within 5 years after he or she turns 18 years old.

“The current pedophiles in our state know the statute of limitations are short,” Spencer said. “It becomes an unfair barrier to justice.”

House Bill 17 would additionally allow victims access to previously sealed investigative records involving their alleged abuse. The bill would also give victims a two-year retroactive window between 2015 and 2017 to pursue civil action that would have otherwise expired under the law.

Spencer has called the bill the “Georgia Hidden Predator Act.” He said his motivation for the proposal came from a case in his district involving alleged abuse by someone working in an after-school program. A case against that person could not be pursued, Spencer said, because the state’s statute of limitations.

Lawmakers will consider the bill when they get back to work Jan. 12 for their next legislative session.