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Bill targeting child prostitution, molestation advances

A bill designed to crack down on child prostitution and allow victims of child molestation more time to sue their alleged perpetrators is moving toward approval.

The Senate on April 5 gave H2699 unanimous support, 28-0.

Some lawmakers on April 1 resisted an amendment to the bill that would give victims of childhood molestation the ability to sue their alleged perpetrators years after they have become adults.

But as the votes in the Senate ultimately showed, fears that the amendment would jeopardize support for the underlying legislation did not materialize.

The bill’s next stop is the House.

Democrats on April 1 tacked the sexual molestation language onto the bill.

In doing so, they created a powerful disincentive for anyone to vote against the amended measure, whose twin aims are to go after those who prey on child prostitutes and those who molest minors.

Under existing statutes, a victim of child molestation has two years after turning 18 – or until the age of 20 – to bring a civil action against the alleged perpetrator.

The amendment, authored by Yuma Democrat Sen. Amanda Aguirre, allows the abused minor to sue for civil damages within 35 years after turning 18.

That is, a minor who suffered sexual abuse can bring a civil suit up until he or she turns 53.

Some Republicans April 1 resisted the amendment for a variety of reasons, including fears that it might risk the passage of the underlying bill and concerns involving the reliability of alleged victims’ memories after so many years.

Democrats countered that it takes years before someone who was abused as a child to able to deal with what happened and to find the courage to bring action against the perpetrator.

The underlying bill would increase penalties for those who pay for sexual acts with minors, and it would rewrite state law to allow defendants to be prosecuted under child prostitution charges, even if they argue they had no idea how old the child was.

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