Thursday, February 24, 2011

Statute of limitations
Bills aimed at sexual abuse passed
By Erin Thompson • Pacific Daily News • February 25, 2011
Passed unanimously with 15 votes, Bill 33, introduced by Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, will eliminate the statute of limitations on sex crimes committed against those under the age of majority, if signed into law. Under Guam law the age of majority is 18. The window for prosecuting cases of sexual abuse is three years after the age of majority, or 21.
A second, more controversial bill allowing for civil claims for past sex abuse passed with only nine votes -- even after an all-day floor debate and the addition of several amendments to the bill earlier in the week.
Also introduced by Cruz, Bill 34 will allow for a two-year window for past victims of childhood sexual abuse to file civil claims in the Superior Court of Guam, if signed into law.
Cruz said he is hopeful former victims of sex abuse will take advantage of the law.
"I'm providing this opportunity for them to be able to use this. I just want to be able to assist them in pointing out who these perpetrators are," said Cruz.
While Cruz thanked his colleagues for "voting their conscience" in passing the two bills, he said he was surprised that Bill 34 passed with six senators dissenting, even after several amendments were added to the bill to address concerns brought up during the floor discussion.
Over concerns of false claims, the bill was amended to require that plaintiffs file a "certificate of merit," which would include a review of the merits of the claim by a licensed mental health practitioner and an attorney. Another amendment also removed language in the bill that would have allowed for suit against not just the perpetrators of sexual abuse but institutions found to be grossly negligent in taking care of a child who was abused.
The inclusion of institutional responsibility was an issue brought up by representatives of the Catholic Church, which has spoken against the bill.

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