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Arizona Senator Makes Final Push To Extend Statute Of Limitations For Child Abuse Survivors

Republican state Sen. Paul Boyer has been proposing changes to Arizona’s statute of limitations for years. Now, he’s taken a stand and said he will not approve a state budget by the deadline unless his bill gets a hearing.

Boyer said his bill, giving victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to sue their attackers, has broad support from Republicans and Democrats.

“The majority of the majority is on board, as is the minority. It's just a few key members that are not on board,” he said.

Current law gives victims two years after they turn 18 to file civil claims of rape and sexual abuse. This bill would extend the window so victims can sue up to seven years after the abuse comes to light.

For the moment, the GOP leadership in neither the Senate nor the House, where a version of his bill also stalled, is showing any sign of advancing Boyer's measure.

The deadline to pass a state budget is June 30 th, and Boyer thinks there are enough Republicans who already are unhappy with some of the budget demands being made by Gov. Doug Ducey to make his threat stick.

Republicans hold a four-seat majority in the Senate.

Boyer said he recognizes this move is politically risky and lessens his ability to make other demands.

"In my seven years, I've never done this before, until now,'' he said. "It's that important.''

His original plan would have created a seven-year statute of limitations — in other words, until age 25 —  to file a civil suit. There appears to be little objection to that.

More controversial is his proposal to create a two-year "window'' for anyone who is older to also file suit — even if the abuse occurred decades before the law was changed -- with that two years running from the point a victim knows or should have known he or she has been harmed.

Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, said she could not support a provision designed to provide some legal relief for those who were molested years ago but whose time to file suit under the current Arizona law has long-since expired.

Cobb allowed supporters to testify in front of the House Appropriations Committee but refused to permit a vote that would advance the bill to the House floor.

Now, Boyer said he is willing to close that window. But he still wants the law to read that people can file lawsuits within seven years of discovering the abuse, no matter how old they are when they come to that conclusion.

"Because of the psychological and emotional trauma of sexual assault, that's why it takes victims longer to process, and that's why they don't come forward, on average, until their 40s,” he said. "So if you just make it 25, it wouldn't do anything.''

The new fiscal year starts July 1 and, unlike in the U.S. Congress, there are no provisions for a "continuing resolution'' to keep Arizona's government open.

Claire Caulfield was a reporter and Morning Edition producer at KJZZ from 2015 to 2019.