A Michigan bill motivated by the heinous sex crimes of Larry Nassar is concerning the Catholic Church, which has been plagued by a series of child sex abuse scandals in recent decades and previously paid billions of dollars to settle U.S. lawsuits.
Michigan lawmakers from both parties are attempting to pass 10 bills altering the legislation surrounding sexual assault cases. The proposal to extend the statute of limitations is particularly worrisome for the Catholic Church, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday. While a spokesman for the Michigan Catholic Conference told the outlet his organization backs some of the proposed legislation, he also said the initiative to extend the statute of limitations is “of concern.”
Prior attempts in the state to allow child sex abuse victims legal recourse have not succeeded, in part, the AP reports, because of Catholic Conference resistance to these bills.
Under current legislation, most individuals sexually abused as children can file lawsuits against abusers until they turn 19. The proposed legislation would work retroactively to extend the statute of limitations, enabling people sexually abused as children from 1993 onward to file lawsuits until they turn 48.
Victims of Nassar have backed the alteration to the statute of limitations.
“The harsh reality is that in most cases, survivors of sexual assault are too deeply traumatized to be able to speak out and pursue justice until decades later,” Rachael Denhollander, who was abused by Nassar, told a state Senate committee.
The alterations to the state’s legislation are not sufficient to rectify all the personal and systemic failures — from adults disbelieving complaints to suppression of incontrovertible evidence of abuse — that enabled Nassar to assault so many people. But the attempt to change legislation hopefully signifies the state will continue treating sexual assault with the gravity it deserves and pass the bills, with or without the support of the Catholic Church.