TOPEKA, Kan. — A recent KBI investigation into child sexual abuse in Catholic churches has reignited the push for changes in legislation in Kansas.
Survivors of child sexual abuse and Kansas lawmakers held a press conference Thursday, urging the Legislature to take action on legislation that would eliminate the reporting deadline for victims of child sexual abuse.
In Kansas, victims have three years after they turn 18 to file a lawsuit, however, some don’t come forward until they’re well into adulthood.
Kim Bergman and Tess Ramirez say they were both attacked by their gymnastics coach David Byrd.
Bergman, who says the abuse started at 12 years old, said it took years to learn that her claims of abuse were substantiated by Child Protective Services (CPS). She stumbled across a letter from CPS at the age of 26, 5 years after the deadline to file a lawsuit.
“My abuser was never arrested for what he did to me… I assumed this meant that no one believed me or that I simply did not matter…,” Bergman said.
Ramirez also said the limits have made it harder for her to seek justice.
“In Kansas, survivors of child sexual abuse are limited in the time that they have to hold these predators accountable,” she said.
It’s one of the reasons Kansas lawmakers are hoping to move forward with legislation that, they say, has been overlooked in the past.
This year, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are reintroducing a bill that would eliminate the deadline for survivors to file a lawsuit.
“They can then have the opportunity to bring back the agency that child sexual abuse has robbed them of,” said Rep. Bob Lewis, R-Garden City.
Lawmakers are planning to introduce bills in both the House and Senate.
Their push comes about a week after a KBI investigation identified 188 Catholic clergy members suspected of committing child sexual abuse. The crimes include rape, sodomy, and sexual battery.
The group says other legislation that’s being worked on would make priests and clergy members mandated reporters.
“It enlarged the scope to help us better understand exactly what we’re dealing with, but I do feel like there’s more pressure or more interest in moving this forward now,” said Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park.