DES MOINES — A bill that would remove the time limit on filing criminal charges in child sex abuse cases has cleared its first hurdle in the Iowa Senate. Under current state law, criminal charges must be filed before the victim turns 28. Studies show many victims never reveal they’ve been abused until much later in life. Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen of Des Moines has been seeking this policy change for years.
“Our laws not only benefit perpetrators, but they also benefit organizations that have covered up crimes against children,” Petersen said, “and that is simply wrong.”
The Senate passed the bill last year, but it stalled in the Iowa House. Republican Representative Steven Holt of Denison is the new chairman of the committee that will review the bill, if passed the senate. Holt said he’s “looking very favorably” at the concept, but some time limit for filing criminal charges may be warranted.
“Anybody that’s been a law enforcement officer ,like myself, you can get two witnesses together for something that happened three days ago and have a different story,” Holt said, “so when you’re talking about something that happened decades ago, you also have to be careful in terms of the rights of the accused.”
There’s a separate bill in the Senate that would remove the time limit for adults to file civil lawsuits seeking monetary damages for sex abuse that occurred when they were under the age of 18.