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Criminal Sexual Conduct statute of limitations bills set for hearing

Interior of the state Capitol's rotunda.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Survivors of sex abuse would have more time to sue under a Michigan bill package set for a House Criminal Justice Committee hearing Tuesday.

Current law requires survivors to make a claim before they turn 28, or three years pass from the time the survivor recognizes the abuse.

Representative Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp) sponsors a bill in the package to give people the latter of ten years after the original claim, their 52nd birthday, or seven years after the discovery of the abuse.

“We want to protect the kids; we want to protect the children. That’s who needs to be protected. And one of the ways we protect children is allow people and organizations to be held accountable for failing children, even if it’s decades later,” Brixie said.

She said survivors of child sex abuse tend to block out those memories or not fully register what they went through. Many don’t come forward until later in life.

The bills would open a two-year window for survivors of criminal sexual conduct to commence legal action.

In the past, the Legislature opened a 90-day window for survivors of former Michigan State athletics doctor Larry Nassar to come forward. But Brixie said that exception, made in 2018, was too narrowly crafted.

“There’s a lot of people that have been left out that have recognized what happened to them but have no avenue for justice because their statute of limitations expired when they were children,” Brixie said.

Other survivors of other high profile sex abuse, like that committed by the now-deceased University of Michigan doctor Robert Anderson, have had a more difficult time suing due to the civil statute of limitations.

The package would also remove the criminal statute of limitations of second- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. First-degree criminal sexual conduct previously had its statute of limitations removed.

Additionally, the legislation would remove governmental immunity in certain cases when state workers failed to intervene.

Brixie said ending that immunity is important for giving survivors access to the justice system.

“What other states have seen, is that when the organizations are held accountable, that’s when the real changes in the organizational structures occur that prevent this from happening over and over again,” Brixie said.

Overall. there are nine bills in the package aimed at supporting sexual assault survivors.

That’s on top of over a dozen other bills making their way through the Legislature to prevent and catch sex abuse.

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