By Tom Chapman
For The Catholic Messenger
Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, reports that a bill has been introduced in the Iowa Senate that would extend the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse to file a lawsuit.
“Sexual abuse is a horrible crime and has caused grievous harm to victims. Unfortunately, sexual abuse is not uncommon in our society, and the Catholic Church has had to learn some painful lessons of its own over the years,” he said.
The proposed bill, Senate File 107, would take away statute of limitations deadlines for a period of three years. Iowa’s current law allows for victims to file a lawsuit against perpetrators and institutions for four years after they discover the injury caused by sexual abuse. This can be many years later.
“Even though very important claims are at stake, statutes of limitations exist because of fairness. Evidence gets old. Memories fade, records are lost or never found, and witnesses die,” Chapman said. “The passage of time makes it very difficult for any accused person or institution to defend themselves, including those instances where the institution was not aware of any abuse. What has been learned over the years has changed how we operate as a church. Pastoral outreach to victims and the protection of children are priorities. The Catholic Church is among the safest environments for children today. Senate File 107 puts the social services and educational work of the church at risk.”
He said the ICC will be keeping an eye on the bill and providing updates.
In other legislative news, Senate Study Bill 1092 would allow undocumented residents of Iowa to obtain a provisional driver’s license if they meet certain criteria. They must have an unexpired passport or an official identification card issued by a foreign government. They also must pass a test.
“Many immigrant families today are in a difficult position: they want to be able to fulfill their basic obligations to their family, but do not want to risk family separation by being detained or deported for driving without a license. The ICC supports Senate Study Bill 1092,” Chapman said. “Allowing people to receive a license after testing is a safety benefit for all of us, and an everyday necessity for many who need to keep a job. The proposed bill would improve roadway safety by ensuring that all drivers are tested regarding their driving skills, know the rules of the road, and have access to mandatory insurance.”