WASHINGTON — Advocates and child sex abuse survivors will stand before members of the Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday to testify. The judiciary committee will have a bill before them that would remove the statute of limitations for all child sex abuse cases.
Currently, Maryland law says a victim has until age 38 to file a civil lawsuit. However, those who are older than 25 when they come forward must prove gross negligence, which is something notoriously difficult to prove.
Maryland Delegate C.T. Wilson of Charles County was part of the negotiations for the current law and has sponsored the proposed bill. The delegate has been open about the sexual abuse he experienced as a child.
“I don’t believe [38-years-old] is enough time. That was a negotiation I had with the Catholic Church at the time, as well as the gross negligence, and I’m not negotiating anymore,” said Wilson.
Delegate Wilson says House Bill 687, which will be before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday for a hearing, would remove the statute of limitations.
The bill would make it so a child sex abuse victim could file a lawsuit no matter their age. Wilson is also adding what’s called a “two-year look back window” to include anyone precluded by the statute of limitations.
One of the people testifying on Thursday will be David Lorenz, the Maryland Director of SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.) He himself is a survivor of child sex abuse in Kentucky. He expects about a dozen survivors and advocates to testify as well.
“When you’re 16 years old, it’s hard to come to the realization that this mentor of yours was actually a criminal,” explained Wilson. “It’s hard to make that mental leap.”
He went on, “That’s why it’s important to me. I want my fellow survivors to be able to experience the sense of justice I was able to experience. And I think the church needs to be exposed for what they’re doing.”
Wilson says recent news involving the Catholic Church has encouraged him to pursue to House Bill 687.
Just last week the former cardinal and Archbishop of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick, was defrocked after the church found he was guilty of sex crimes, including some involving children.
Wilson brought up a Pennsylvania grand jury released last year about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as well. In the nearly 900-page grand jury investigation report, former Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl was accused of moving abusive priests to other parishes and not informing church leaders.
“With all the stuff in the news I just said, we’re going to do this the right way,” said Wilson. “I’m not going to cut corners. And I don’t think that there’s anything that can be overreaching when it comes to protecting the victims of child sexual abuse.”
Wilson believes his bill could be headed toward defeat. He believes it will pass in the Maryland House of Delegates, but he does not believe it will come to a vote in the Maryland Senate.
“It’s not that it won’t pass, it just won’t get a vote which is the most cowardly thing imaginable,” said Wilson.
Lorenz told WUSA9 he is cautiously hopeful. But, after 12 years of advocacy he knows he can’t get his hopes up.
“The right thing to do is to side with survivors and help them get some justice,” he said.
Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 687 on Thursday at 1 p.m. A vote on the bill is not yet scheduled.