Maryland’s House of Delegates is considering a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations in civil claims of child sex abuse.
The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the bill on Thursday from survivors and advocates. Among them were the bill’s sponsor, Del. C.T. Wilson, who was sexually abused as a child himself.
In addition to firsthand accounts of abuse, the committee heard from various survivor organizations, as well as those who deal with legally pursuing sex abuse cases.
“There are people here, who probably won’t be here next year,” Wilson said in his opening statement to the committee. “And some of them are going to take their own lives, or their lives will end early because of what they went through.”
“If I don’t make it to next year, I’m going to give you guys one hell of a fight this year,” Wilson tearfully concluded.
No one at the hearing spoke in opposition to the bill.
Susan Kerin of Catholics for Action, an organization allied with the Survivor Network for those Abused by Priests, says the legal process is an important one for survivors.
“It’s a healing process to have their day in court,” Kerin said.
While the bill only applies to civil claims and not criminal cases, Kerin said that the legislation can end up having an impact on criminal prosecutions.
“Civil cases are an avenue for survivors to collect evidence that can be used in criminal cases,” said Kerin. “Prosecutors are not going to take a case unless they have really strong evidence, and this is a way for them to collect that and really control the process.”
It’s unclear when the committee could vote on the bill.