Child Sex Abuse Law Pushed by Local Reps Moves Closer to Approval

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State Rep. John Lawn of Watertown.

State Rep. John Lawn of Watertown.

After years of pushing for a child sex abuse law, a bill on Beacon Hill has moved closer to being passed than ever thanks in part to the work of two local legislators.

The law would extend the statue of limitations for civil law suits to be filed by victims of child abuse.

Last week, the House gave initial approval of the bill that came out of the Committee on the Judiciary, which is co-chaired by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, D – Belmont, (who represents Watertown). Brownsberger has been a champion of the bill in the senate.

On the House side, State Rep. John Lawn, D – Watertown, has worked hard on the bill. Lawn, who also represents part of Waltham, took on the cause after being approached by a woman from Waltham who had been repeatedly raped, and impregnated, by her godfather when she between the ages of 5 and 15.

The current law has a statute of limitation of three years to file a lawsuit, but that would be extended to 35 years. It also extends the time when a victim “discovered or reasonably should have discovered that an emotional or psychological injury or condition was caused” by sexual abuse from three years to seven years after the victim turns 18.

In 2012 a similar bill made it to conference committee, but did not get support. This is the farthest such a bill has reached, and Lawn said it could come to the House for a vote as soon as next week.

In the past part of the opposition has been from the Catholic Church who worried about the financial impact of lawsuits for alleged clergy sex abuse in Boston and around the state, Lawn said. This year he met with church leaders.

“We were able to work with them,”  Lawn said. “I think the church is doing a good job putting procedures in place. We were able to strike a good compromise.”

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