Arkansas joined New York, New Jersey, and California in May as the next state to extend the statute of limitations for cases of childhood sexual abuse.
Senate Bill 676, or the “Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act” will allow Arkansas child sex abuse survivors to file civil claims against those who harmed them past the existing age of 21 up to the age of 55. Additionally, the law creates a retroactive two-year window during which any claim, no matter how old, may be brought.
“This bill is another step in the right direct [sic] of tracking down those who prey upon our children.”
said Sen. David Wallace (R-Mississippi, Poinsett, Craighead), the bill’s chief sponsor.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) elaborated further on the challenges of the previous statute of limitations and how the new law should ensure greater accountability for predators.
“As we have become more and more aware of the proliferation of crimes against children, we also have increased our understanding of the terrible toll it takes on them and the understandable difficulty children often have in reporting these crimes. The trauma cuts deep, in places even the victim isn’t aware. The damage can last a lifetime and adversely affect relationships,” he said.
“This law is an acknowledgement that we recognize these crimes are an assault on innocence and to affirm to the victims that we are listening. In extending the statute of limitations, we are granting them the opportunity to seek justice and then perhaps to find some healing.”
Hutchinson continued, “The law is important, too, because abusers often have more than one victim, and some abuse many children over the years. By lifting the time limit and giving voice to the victims of the past, we increase the chance that we will identify offenders who are still abusing children and stop them from hurting others.”
Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R-Paragould), the equivalent bill’s chief sponsor in the Arkansas House of Representatives, was unable to comment by deadline.
The Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act will take effect July 27 — 90 days after the Arkansas legislature’s April 28th recess.
Josh Gillispie of Green & Gillispie, a Little Rock law firm committed to a qualifying case against the Boy Scouts of America, told the Arkansas Times that he anticipates many such accusations to arise once the law kicks in. “Come July, it’s open season,” he said.
52 former residents of the Lord's Ranch youth facility in Arkansas have filed lawsuits against former administrators and employees, alleging sexual and physical abuse. According to the lawsuits, children at the Lord's Ranch lived in constant fear, facing abuse from staff and other residents.