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Sen. Boyer gives Senate ultimatum on sex abuse bill

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Sen. Paul Boyer said he’ll refuse to vote for a budget unless lawmakers agree to expand opportunities for victims of child rape and sex abuse to sue their abusers.

The Phoenix Republican told the Arizona Capitol Times that victims should have seven years after their age of discovery – that is, the age at which they can reasonably be expected to realize they were raped or abused earlier in life – to file civil complaints against their assailants and anybody who knew but did not report the abuse.

It’s not everything Boyer had hoped for, but it’s at least an improvement on Arizona law that provides only a two-year statute of limitations that starts when a victim turns 18, he said. And if Boyer doesn’t get his way, he’ll make life difficult for Republicans trying to pass a budget, a vote that could occur within days or weeks.

It takes 16 votes to pass bills in the Senate, and with 17 GOP senators, Republicans can’t afford to lose more than one vote and still pass a budget without an assist from Democratic senators, who rarely vote for GOP-led budgets.

Boyer said the matter is important enough to warrant his protest.

“In my mind, if we can’t protect kids then I don’t know what we’re doing here,” he said. “I think what I’m asking for is very reasonable.”

So far Boyer has been stymied at every turn in his effort to change the current law.

“What we’re doing now as a state policy is we’re saying no matter how much evidence you have… It doesn’t matter. If you’re 21 or older, your time’s up,” he said. “I’m just allowing victims the opportunity just to make their case before a judge. All I’m asking for is seven years from when the victim should’ve known they were harmed.”

Arizona has no statute of limitations on criminal charges for violent sexual assault or sexual abuse of a child 15 or younger. Victims have testified that civil lawsuits against their abusers aren’t just a source of justice for individual victims but a way to identify abusers who have not faced criminal charges.

Boyer introduced a bill earlier this year that would have given victims until age 25 or seven years after they first tell a psychologist or medical doctor about the abuse — whichever came later — to sue their abusers and anyone who protected them. But the measure was never given a hearing in the Senate, where Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Mesa, blocked the bill from advancing through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Boyer tried a different tactic in the House, where he amended a bill sponsored by Sen. Heather Carter with language that expanded the statute of limitations by 12 years after a victim reaches age 18. Rep. Regina Cobb allowed the bill to be heard in the House Appropriations Committee, but did not hold a vote on the bill.

Some nearby states have laws similar to Boyer’s latest proposal. In Nevada, civil claims may be filed with 10 years of discovery of an injury caused by sexual abuse.

It’d be up to a judge to look at the evidence and determine what year the age of discovery is and whether a civil claim can be made, Boyer said, a process that at least gives victims their day in court.

“We can’t just bar the courtroom door and so no matter how much evidence you have, you can’t come forward,” he said.

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