Victims of childhood sex abuse feel hopeful after state law changes civil statute of limitations

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — A new law in Arkansas is giving hope to victims of sexual abuse.

The ‘Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act” also known as Senate Bill 676, changes the civil statute of limitations for anyone who was abused as a minor in Arkansas.

According to Joshua Gillispie, an attorney representing men who claim they were abused as a Boy Scout, many victims were out of luck when it came to seeking financial compensation in court if they did not report the abuse before turning the age of 21.

However, the new law changes the reporting age to 55-years-old for those looking to seek civil action against their abuser in court.

“It’s going to protect children moving forward,” said attorney Joshua Gillispie, with Green & Gillispie.

According to Gillispie, there are approximately 890 men with claims pending against the Boy Scouts of America and the local councils in Arkansas.

“I, and several other boys in the Hot Springs area, were sexually abused by a scout leader,” said William Stevens.

Stevens says he became emotional when Governor Hutchinson signed the bill into action and looks forward to taking his case to court.

“The end goal is to heal,” said Stevens.

For other survivors, it’s a start but does not wipe away the pain of being abused.

One man says while he plans on pursuing civil action against the Boy Scouts of America, it will never change what happened.

“I am still that child laying on the floor of that tent… being molested,” said Jeffrey Burfeind.

The Boy Scouts of America sent the following quote:

On behalf of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) councils that serve Arkansas — organizations dedicated to improving the lives of young people — we are deeply saddened by the pain and suffering that survivors endured. It is important to note that, while any instance of abuse is one too many, the overwhelming majority of abuse claims filed in the national organization’s bankruptcy case relate to allegations of abuse that occurred prior to implementation of our modern youth protection policies more than three decades ago. 

As part of the Scouting organization, we are committed to fulfilling our social and moral responsibility to equitably compensate survivors while also ensuring that Scouting can continue to serve youth, families, and local communities in Arkansas for years to come.  We will continue to work in good faith to help achieve a global resolution in the national organization’s Chapter 11 case that would achieve both imperatives. 

Regarding Our Youth Protection Policies:

Over many years, the BSA has developed some of the strongest youth protection policies found in any youth-serving organization, which are informed by respected experts in the fields of child safety, law enforcement, and child psychology. The BSA’s multi-layered process of safeguards includes the following measures, all of which act as barriers to abuse: mandatory youth protection training for all volunteers and employees; a leadership policy that requires at least two youth-protection trained adults be present with youth at all times during Scouting activities and bans one-on-one situations where adults would have any interaction alone with children – either in person, online, or via phone or text; a thorough screening process for adult leaders and staff including criminal background checks, and the prompt mandatory reporting of any allegation or suspicion of abuse to law enforcement. Our volunteers and employees take these measures extremely seriously.

The law will go into effect 90 days after the Arkansas legislature recessed, which was on April 28th, 2021.

To read the bill in it’s entirety, click HERE.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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