LANSING — Today Sen. Steve Bieda (D–Warren) and Rep. Adam Zemke (D–Ann Arbor) introduced legislation (SB 1067, HB 5859) that would eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of a child.

“The sexual exploitation of children is one of the most heinous crimes conceivable,” Sen. Bieda said. “Michigan law must be able to hold perpetrators accountable, regardless of how long it takes victims to report.”

Under the current statute of limitations, perpetrators can only be charged within 10 years after the offense is committed or by the victim’s 21st birthday, whichever is later. In many — if not most — cases, that’s just not enough time. Experts on child sexual abuse assert that many victims are too young to process or talk about the abuse they suffered as children. It can take decades for them to make a report, and by that time, the abuser may have escaped prosecution by virtue of a reporting loophole.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 44 percent of sexual assault victims are under age 18, and 93 percent of them know the perpetrator. That means that many abusers hold a position of trust in relation to the victim, making it that much more difficult to report.

Eliminating the statute of limitations would give victims an indefinite path to justice and help make it easier to track patterns of abuse over time. That’s especially important when the effects of childhood abuse can span generations, exacting terrible physical, psychological, behavioral and societal consequences.

“Arbitrary statutes of limitations deny victims justice,” Rep. Zemke said. “The effects of childhood sexual abuse can last a lifetime. It’s only fair that state law reflects that reality.”

For more information about the long-term effects of childhood abuse, please visit www.childwelfare.gov.

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