Bill would give minor victims of sexual assault longer period to sue

A bill introduced in the General Assembly would give those who were victims of sexual assault as minors, but now are prohibited by the current statute of limitations from filing a lawsuit, a 26-month window to do so, regardless of their age.

According to language for Senate Bill 3, “An Act Combating Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment,” which was introduced Tuesday, a lawsuit to recover damages for personal injury to a minor caused by sexual abuse, including emotional distress, that could not be brought by Sept. 19, 2019, because of the current statute of limitations, would be able to be filed on or before Dec. 31, 2021.

The bill also would allow minor victims to bring a civil legal action at any time in their life if it concerns an incident that takes place on or after Oct. 1, 2019, or occurred prior to that date and the applicable statute of limitations had not expired by Sept. 30, 2019.

If the provision is approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont, it is expected to result in alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, nuns, deacons and bishops filing lawsuits against the state's Roman Catholic dioceses, including the Diocese of Norwich. Some alleged victims, who have waited until later in life to reveal the sexual abuse they suffered, have discovered they are unable to file lawsuits because they did not do so by age 48 under the current statute of limitations. Some alleged victims have told The Day they would sue the Norwich Diocese if the proposed law were passed.

The state’s Catholic dioceses plan to oppose the change.

The bill also would establish new requirements for businesses, organizations and state government regarding sexual harassment complaints, education and training. It also would eliminate the statute of limitations for the criminal prosecution of any sexual assault of a minor that occurs after Oct. 1, 2019, or for any offense committed before then for which the statute of limitations in place at the time of the offense had not yet expired as of Oct. 1, 2019.

As many Catholic clergy accused of sexual abuse are now deceased and the statute of limitations for prosecuting those who are alive has expired, the change is not expected to result in widespread prosecution of Catholic clergy.

State Sen. Mae Flexer, D-26 District, a co-sponsor of the bill, said Tuesday that the Judiciary Committee could hold public hearings on the bill next week. Regionally, the bill also is co-sponsored by Democratic state Sens. Cathy Osten, 19th District, and Norm Needleman, 33rd District.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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