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Victims Of Child Abuse Fight To Change MN's Statute Of Limitations

ST. PAUL (WCCO) -- Victims of child sexual abuse were at the state capitol Thursday, fighting to change a Minnesota law that would allow survivors more time to take civil action.

Sitting before a room of complete strangers, victims of childhood sexual abuse shared their survival stories.

"This is big moment for me. I was abused by catholic priest at 13," said Jim Keenan.

"In an instance, my childhood innocence was stripped from me," said Al Chesley, who was sexually abused as a child.

Their stories didn't end in adolescence. As an adult, Keenan found himself a victim once again when he discovered the statute of limitations on his case ran out.

"I really thought our justice system would be there for me when I was ready for healing," said Keenan.

Both men spoke out in favor of a bill to end the statute of limitations for civil cases dealing with child sex abuse.

"You need to be able to stand up say, you did something wrong and watch the system work," said Keenan.

Right now, the statute of limitations is six years after the victim turns 18. Victims and their supporters want to change Minnesota law, allowing survivors more time to take civil action.

But not everyone is in favor of the change. The Minnesota Religious Council worried about the accuracy of facts, decades after an alleged abuse.

"It's precisely because memories fade, records lost, that virtually every other claim has statute of limitations," said Al Connolly, who represented the Minnesota Religious Council.

The other concern was the financial impact on defendants associated with the crime, but who didn't commit it, like schools, counties or cities. Those opposed to the change argue costly settlements could ultimately cost taxpayers.

"Should today's students pay for yesteryear's problems?" asked Grace Keliher, of the Minnesota School Board Association.

The issue was too big for an immediate decision. The Senate Judiciary Committee tabled the bill until a later date, leaving both sides wondering if compromise is possible.

Some of the groups testifying on Thursday included representatives for schools, daycares and the Minnesota League of Cities. They said they still haven't decided if they are for or against this bill.

There have been previous attempts to end the statute of limitations on civil cases involving sex abuse, but they have not passed the Legislature.

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