Augusta, GA – A new state law in Georgia creates an open door for more people to report sexual abuse, even if it happened a long time ago.
We actually found out that those alleged abuse cases that make the news are just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds more being investigated. But not everyone is charged with a crime for sex abuse. With this new law, victims can get justice.
Adults victimized by sex abuse when they were under age 18 now have some help from Georgia State Lawmakers.
Georgia State Senator Harold Jones told News Channel 6 that House Bill 17 helps, “Persons [who] were not able to bring lawsuits where they had been victims of certain sexual offenses when they were under 18.
The bill, known as the Hidden Predators Act, gives victims of sexual assault, such as child molestation, statutory rape, or sexual battery, two years to file a civil lawsuit against their attackers. But, after July 1st, 2017, the claims must be filed within two years of then the victim knew of the abuse.
“Allow them the opportunity to bring a possible lawsuit if they’re able to show credible medical evidence,” he said.
This is great news for Kari Viola, who advocates for children who have been molested. She said it gives victims, who were once afraid to talk, a voice.
Viola said, “Majority of the time when people are abused it’s by someone they know and the family knows and trust. Often times we do see delayed disclosures. Giving victims more time gives them the opportunity to have a voice.”
Sen. Jones added, “Many victims unfortunately have been pushed aside sometimes or they were unable to get a proper hearing.”
Child Enrichment conducted nearly 500 forensic interviews between July 2014 and July 2015. Viola said those interviews happen after child abuse allegations come forward in Richmond, Columbia and Burke Counties. Child Enrichment acts as the neutral party before the Division of Family and Children Services and law enforcement does an investigation. Of those cases, fewer than 50 got convictions in criminal court.
“With child abuse we often don’t see forceful acts. We’ll see more of it will gradually get more and more and escalate. There’s the physical grooming of the child then grooming the environment so that everybody in the family trusts this person,” Viola said.
Viola adds that even though criminal charges may have not happened, the victims can still seek justice through this law by getting money from the lawsuit. She said that money can be used for victims to get counseling.