A group of parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens are backing a bill in the Ohio legislature that would lift the statute of limitations on rape cases in addition to a bill that aims to provide age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention education to schoolchildren.
A group of Ohioans, who call themselves Ohioans for Child Protection, gathered at the Statehouse on October 20 to urge lawmakers to pass House bills (HB) 266 and 105 into law in the state of Ohio.
State Representatives Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) and Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) introduced HB 266 in April 2021. This bill would eliminate the two-year statute of limitations for a victim of child sexual abuse to sue their abusers and would replace it with a three-year time limit from the time the adult survivor first comes forward. The bill also would eliminate the statute of limitation for criminal prosecutions of rape and would invalidate the spousal exception to rape in Ohio.
HB 105, sponsored by State Representatives Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) and Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) states that kindergarten students through sixth grade will be instructed in personal safety and assault prevention. Grades 7 through 12 will receive dating violence prevention education and sexual violence prevention education including instruction in recognizing dating violence warning signs and characteristics of healthy relationships.
HB 105 passed in the Ohio House but stopped in the Ohio Senate last June. HB 266 was introduced in the Ohio House last year and was assigned to the Criminal Justice Committee for review, but this bill is also stagnant.
Ohioans for Child Protection Co-Chair Rebecca Surendorff told The Ohio Star that the organization has reached out to the Senate Education Committee Chair, Senator Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), as well as seven additional lawmakers, to get answers to why the bills aren’t moving and to show their support for these pieces of legislation. To date, they have not received clear answers for the delays.
“We feel very strongly. We will keep advocating until something happens and will continue forwards,” Surendorff said.
The Star obtained comments from State Representative Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), a committee member on the Criminal Justice Committee, in regard to the bills in question. Seitz says that one reason there hasn’t been movement on HB 105 and HB 266 is that he has introduced two better bills addressing the same concerns, HB 689 and HB 709.
“One reason the bills in question have not moved forward is that there are two other, better bills that address the same subject in a more balanced manner,” Seitz said.
HB 689 is also currently in review by the Criminal Justice Committee. This bill would double the statute of limitations within which a mandatory reporter of child abuse may be prosecuted for failing to make the required report.
Seitz states that the bill also streamlines a procedure first adopted in approximately 2006 whereby, regardless of the passage of the statute of limitations, persons may seek a declaratory judgment that a given defendant committed acts of child abuse which warrant placement on a sexual abuse registry.
“That provision gives these victims what they originally said they wanted – a way to ensure that these offenders could never be around children again – but it does not open the floodgates to lawsuits seeking money damages decades after the alleged abuse occurred,” Seitz told The Star.
HB 709 changes Ohio law to eliminate the statute of limitations applicable to claims for monetary damages for sexual abuse when there is a bankruptcy settlement that offers additional compensation to states that have extended their statute of limitations.
According to Seitz, another reason why HB 266 has not passed is that there is already a criminal statute of limitations for rape that allows prosecutions within 25 years of the rape (a time period that is suspended during the period that the victim was a minor, and that could be further extended by another five years if DNA evidence is available).
“Only murder carries no statute of limitations in Ohio and many of us believe that statutes of limitation serve multiple valid purposes and do not wish to extend it further,” Seitz said.
Seitz told The Ohio Star, that the bills also do not distinguish between claims for damages against the actual perpetrator of the abuse and claims against the employer of that perpetrator, whose only culpability rests on a theory of negligence in failing to oversee the perpetrator’s behavior.
“The concept of limitless liability for mere acts of negligence is one that is untenable,” Seitz said.
According to Surendorff, Ohioans for Child Protection do not disagree with the bill sponsored by Seitz. But they do believe that HB 266 and 105 have the potential to serve more abuse victims as a whole.
The introduction of bills from both political parties shows that Ohio needs to address the topic of child sexual assault. However, lawmakers have yet to come to an agreement on what legislation to pass to create protections for these victims.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kids in the park” by ZHerun CC2.0.
One Thought to “Advocates Press Lawmakers to Pass Ohio Bill Lifting Statute of Limitations for Rape Cases”
Why? Let’s drop it on all crimes if you want to, but this drip, drip, drip of selective limitations bending is only being done to make the state look like it doesn’t care. Besides, evidence gets lost, thrown away, memories get dim, etc, so the whole of the trial looks like a Christine Blasey-Ford claim that “something must have happened at some time”.