Closings: Schools, churches, day-cares and businesses

New law eliminates statute of limitations for young victims of sex crimes

ST. LOUIS – Victims of sexual abuse in Missouri will now have more time to seek justice.

Many say the scars of sexual abuse can last a lifetime. Now child victims in Missouri will have that long to seek justice in criminal cases.

“We’ve seen with the Pennsylvania grand jury and the Catholic Church, people not being able to come forward until they’re 60, 70, 80 because of the trauma this is caused. Now those people can come forward in a criminal case,” said attorney Nicole Gorovsky.

A new law, effective this week, extends the scope of sex crimes against minors that now have no statute of limitations. It now includes victims of forced prostitution, child porn, and incest, among others.

“That’s what I see with a lot of the times with the teens that I work with,” said Heidi Harbin, lead adolescent therapist and clinical director at Safe Connections. “Maybe they didn’t know when they were younger they were in a situation, but later they can look back and say, ‘This was messed up’ and ‘I realize that person probably knew what was going.’ ‘As an adult, I can see now that this is abusive but as a kid, I didn’t understand it.’”

What does this law mean going forward?

“On the one hand, it means a perpetrator may have to go to prison to keep this from happening to somebody else, but it also means that (an) institution needs to be encouraged either monetarily or by settlement agreement pressure to make changes so that they don’t have this happen again,” Gorovsky said.

While legal experts don’t think the new law would apply to past crimes, they believe this change is a move in the right direction and should even go one step further.

"What we’d also hope for is that it would be a change in the civil realm when it comes to the statute of limitations where the time frame is shorter,” Gorovsky said. “They need to extend the change for civil statute of limitations for the exact same reasons."