July 9, 2021

Radio Program Puts Spotlight on Arkansas Law Aiding Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Arkansas’ efforts to empower survivors of childhood sexual assault got a signal boost recently when a Little Rock-based radio show dedicated a segment to the subject.

The July 8 edition of the Dave Elswick Show — broadcast on Little Rock’s talk radio station 101.1 The Answer FM — devoted roughly 20 minutes to the normally taboo subject.

Much of the focus was given over to Act 1036, a law that gives childhood and disabled victims of sexual assault until the age of 55 to sue their abuser. Prior to the measure being signed into law April 30, the statute of limitations on suing an abuser was 21. The law, which the state legislature passed earlier in the year, also creates a lookback period that allows survivors to revive a suit previously dismissed due to the statute of limitations starting January 2021.

Little Rock-based attorney Joshua Gillispie, a partner at Green and Gillispie, appeared on the show to extol the law, saying it gives many long-marginalized victims a chance at “something close to closure.”

“It’s a much more prevalent problem than any of us know,” he said of childhood sexual abuse. It’s happening right under our noses and it gets reported very rarely.”

Survivors Need Time

And because the experience is so traumatic for many survivors, it often “takes years to come to terms with what happened to them and get to that stage in life where they’re ready to stand up for justice and stand up for themselves,” explained Gillispie.

That’s what makes this new law in Arkansas — the first state in the south to pass such a law — so important, Gillispie said.

“The way a society treats its children is a measure, the best measure of that society’s soul,” he said, paraphrasing Nelson Mandela. “The Arkansas legislature and the governor, in making this bill law, are living up to that maxim. I give them a lot of credit for doing that.”

Gillispie, who specializes in these kinds of cases, said he’s made them the cornerstone of his practice because “it’s important to leave your own little corner of the world … better than you found it, and I’m trying to do just that. To decrease suffering and misery any way I can.”

Suffering in Silence

And many victims suffer mightily — often in silence — for years. Gillispie noted that sexual abuse greatly increases someone’s chances of engaging in drug and alcohol abuse, developing depression and even suicidal thoughts.

“Short of murder, I think there’s no worse harm that can be done to a child,” he said.

The state’s new law gives them the opportunity to reclaim control of their lives, Gillispie said, “regaining the agency that was so wrongly taken from them years ago.”

He asked listeners who suffered childhood sexual abuse to visit a website devoted to the new law — Justice for Arkansas Victims — that was set up jointly by his practice and another law firm.

“If you were abused by a clergy member or anyone else, whether it was in the ’60s or this was five years ago, and you’ve not come forward, please go to the website and please give us a call,” Gillispie said. “We can help you get the treatment you need … and we can explain your options about getting justice.”

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Josh Gillispie