Clergy Sex Abuse Survivors and Iowa Legislator Call for Changes to Child Sex Abuse Laws

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests held a press conference at the Iowa Capitol with Iowa State Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen on Wednesday to call on legislators and the attorney general to do more for victims of child sexual abuse.

SNAP President Tim Lennon shared his story of being sexually abused when he was 12-years-old by a Catholic priest.

“When I was about 43 I remembered some of the abuse. This priest would molest me in movies, at the park. He would pick me up at home. He was a friend of the family,” Lennon said.

Lennon said he suppressed the memories until they came up again when he was 43 and by then it was too late to pursue any type of justice.

“My viewpoint personally and from the viewpoint of my organization the survivors network of those abused by priests is there should be no statute of limitations.”

Sen. Petersen said Iowa law states victims of child sex abuse must report the crime within 15 years of the incident for criminal charges to be filed, but for civil lawsuits the time is much shorter.

“You only have five years to go after that organization for damages from the time you leave that school or end therapy or counseling. Otherwise the civil statute of limitations runs out at the age of 19,” Petersen said.

Petersen said Iowa’s criminal and civil laws for child sex abuse cases are some of the worst in the country and come in dead last tied with Ohio.

"Our laws do not protect our communities from sexual predators and I think we cannot continue to ignore this. We've seen case after case across the country and the rest of the country is stepping up to make their communities safer. We need to be doing the same here in Iowa," Petersen said.

She said during this legislative session several bills to change the statutes of limitations on these crimes passed through the Iowa Senate but were stopped in the Iowa House.

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