With law, Md. legislator’s work for fellow sex abuse victims pays off

WASHINGTON — A Maryland lawmaker didn’t want to share his story of being sexually abused as a child — ever. And he didn’t want to have to do it for a third year in a row.

But Del. C.T. Wilson said he was willing to go through it all again if it meant he could get a bill passed so victims of child sexual abuse get more time to bring civil suits against their abusers.

Since Wilson first brought the bill to Annapolis two years ago, he said he has heard from hundreds of abuse survivors.

“The thing that they all have in common is they feel that nobody’s listening and that nobody cares,”  said the Democrat representing the state’s 28th District.

But on Tuesday, Wilson stood alongside Gov. Larry Hogan as the governor signed HB 642 into law. It extends the time that survivors of child sexual abuse have to file civil cases against their abusers. They now have until they are 38 years old. The prior statute of limitations ran out when a survivor turned 25.

‘I didn’t want to do it again this year.’

Wilson first told his story to lawmakers as part of his effort to pass a similar bill back in 2015. So when he appeared before the House judiciary panel this year, Wilson was blunt.

“You know, it’s tough to sit here and put your personal business out — and I didn’t want to do it again this year. I really didn’t,” he said.

But Wilson explained that he had personal experience with the pain — and the shame — that a survivor of child sexual abuse carries. And if telling his story would advance the bill, he said, he would keep coming back.

Wilson explained he was one of 17 children, and was adopted at age 4.

“The guy who adopted me was a kindergarten teacher, he was a Cub Scout leader, he was a junior pastor of a church, and he was a church choir leader. And he was also a pedophile.”

From the age of 8 to about the time he was 16, Wilson said, he was repeatedly abused physically and sexually.

Lifelong damage

The damage that is done when a child is abused is lifelong, Wilson told the House panel, and sorting out what happened leads the abused to question everything.

“See, when you’ve been victimized, you learn not to trust people. You lose your faith in God. You lose your faith in people, for sure. And carrying that shame around with you creates a disconnect with humanity,” he said.

Back in February, Wilson told lawmakers that the then-bill wasn’t about allowing survivors of abuse to seek revenge. Instead, he told them, the bill would give survivors the knowledge that they aren’t to blame for what happened to them.

Survivors want the ability to face their abusers, Wilson said, “and they want to be able to say, ‘It is your fault, and you were wrong.’”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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