Gov. Doug Ducey announced that he will create a task force to look into cases of childhood sexual abuse and help guide lawmakers on possible changes to state law that aid victims in Arizona.
Ducey made the announcement at the Executive Tower on Monday with Republican Sens. Paul Boyer and Heather Carter at his side during a ceremonial signing ceremony for a bill that extends the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers or the organizations that protected them. Boyer championed the issue throughout the session, and he and Carter forced the legislature to take up the issue by withholding their votes on the state budget. Ducey signed House Bill 2466 into law on Monday.
“We’re here because of many brave individuals who turned their pain into a passionate pursuit of justice,” Ducey said as he stood with lawmakers and victims of childhood sexual abuse.
The Justice for Victims of Child Sex Abuse Task Force will be a statewide effort to examine cases and look into existing data on childhood sexual assault.
“I know there is much improvement yet to come,” Ducey said.
Boyer said that he and Carter have made it clear that at least one survivor of childhood sexual abuse must be on the task force, which will also consist of lawmakers and law enforcement figures.
Ducey said that stakeholders from insurance companies and institutions such as the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America could likely be a part of the group as well. Critics and opponents of Boyer’s proposal raised concerns about the effect that extending the statute of limitations would have on such groups by subjecting them to lawsuits alleging that they ignored or enabled sexual predators.
“We want to have all voices represented,” the governor said.
A ‘small miracle’
The fight to get the statute of limitations changed for victims of childhood sexual assault in Arizona was not an easy task.
Boyer and Carter had said that they were no votes on the $11.8 billion budget unless some form of Boyer’s original bill had passed.
The fight became a point of contention within Boyer’s own party. In comments that became public after someone accidentally left a microphone on during a closed caucus meeting two Republican House members spoke about the need for retribution against Boyer and Carter for stalling the budgetary process.
“I don’t hold anything against them,” Boyer told the Arizona Mirror, adding that he intends to continue pushing legislation on this issue.
Given what appears to be an already hostile attitude towards him, Boyer said that the process “will be contentious, no doubt.”
Boyer called the passage of the bill a “small miracle” but despite the difficulty in getting it approved, he said he intends to push for changes the newly passed law to further extend the statute of limitations to more to give victims time to report their abuse.
The new law in Arizona states that victims have until the age of 30 to file a civil claim against an alleged abuser or an organization that protected them. Child USA, a group that advocates for child sex abuse victims, found that the median age of victims who come forward was 48.
Upon Ducey’s signature, the bill goes into effect immediately due to an emergency clause.
It is unclear when the task force will begin meeting or when it will give its findings to the Arizona legislature.