Senate Republicans and Democrats are currently working together to help pass a bill that will help sexual abuse survivors.
Senate File 2095, proposed by Sen. Brad Zaun (R-Polk) would get rid of the statute of limitations for civil action, allowing those who faced abuse when they were minors to sue their perpetrators anytime throughout their adult years. The law currently states that a civil claim can only be made by minors who were abused until they are 19 years old.
This bill is just one of many written in the past few years about matters of sexual abuse and statute of limitations. Last session Senate File 562 removed the 33-year time limit from when an abuse survivor can bring criminal charges against their abuser for crimes such as sexual abuse, human trafficking, and other related laws.
When SF 562 was signed into law last May by Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa became the 14th state to make these changes.
According to the 2021 Iowa Department of Human Services “2021 Child Welfare by the Numbers” report, the number of child abuse assessment cases that resulted in “confirmed” abuse was 8,543 children. Out of this number, 4% of these victims faced sexual abuse. If SF 2095 gets passed, those 341 victims of sexual abuse last as a minor last year alone, would have the rest of their life to take action for what happened to them.
Similar to last year’s bill, SF 2095 has gained a large amount of support from Republicans, and Democrats as well as lobbyists. Out of the lobbyists who have voiced an opinion on this bill, 14 have declared in support whereas 7 have declared against it.
Karl Schilling, a lobbyist with Soaring Heart and Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance, supports this bill as he believes that reporting abuse of a minor in a short period is impracticable. This is because the child can be “confused as to the nature of the act,” especially if the adult tells them everything is okay.
“Even if the child comes to know better there are pressures against telling such as threats of harm, humiliation, and gaslighting,” said Schilling. “So in cases like this, we believe the normal protections offered by statutes of limitations are outweighed by the need to stop child abuse and bring justice for the abused.”
Other lobbyists, such as Greg Bellville with Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, believe that by removing the statutes of limitations, the bill may help prevent future sexual abuse cases from happening.
Bellville said that sexual abuse is “100% preventable,” and that by removing the statute of limitations survivors of assault can find important resources they need later in life while helping “prevent future abuse from happening by bringing these situations to light.”
No lobbyists who filed against this bill responded when asked to comment on their decisions.
Sen. Janet Petersen (D-Polk), who served on the Judiciary subcommittee For SF 2095, spoke to the Senate on Feb. 3rd about the bill. She shared her support for the bill, hoping that this was the year that “going after the civil statute of limitations is something I hope that we will all be able to do.”
“Our sex abuse laws in Iowa are very complex,” said Sen. Petersen. “They are hard to understand, but the one thing that I can tell you about our child sex abuse laws is they don’t protect our kids. They protect predators. I know we are getting really close to the funnel date, but this issue is really important and I hope that we can see it make it through the judiciary committee.”
SF 2095 passed out of the subcommittee early and has not received a full vote in the Judiciary Committee.
As of April 7th, 2022, Senate File 2059 has still not been brought up in the Judiciary Committee and will likely not be brought up for the remainder of the 2022 Legislative session.
The bill failed to move out of the Subcommittee when it was approved for passage on January 31st. It died before the first funnel date on February 18th.
Two other bills regarding sexual assault in the House also died on January 31st. House Study Bill 529 and 522 both did not make it past the first funnel date.
House Study Bill 529 was in regards to prohibiting lawyers from asking for a deposition about sexual history in sexual abuse cases unless there were special circumstances. House Study Bill 522 would have allowed children or people with disabilities to have a confidant who could testify on their behalf of conversations they have had about the abuse.