Testimony by Abuse Survivor William Stevens
Arkansas passes new law allowing abuse victims to seek justice
The State of Arkansas recently enacted “Justice for Vulnerable Victims Of Sexual Abuse Act” (also known as Senate Bill 676 or “SB 676”). This law gives victims of sexual abuse an opportunity to pursue civil justice for childhood sexual abuse – both from the perpetrators and the institutions who enabled the abuse.
Green & Gillispie | Crew Janci
Media Coverage in Arkansas
What is SB 676 / The “Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act”?
This new law creates a period of time (a two-year “window”) during which victims of child sexual abuse can seek civil justice. No matter how long ago the abuse happened, during the two-year window period, the statute of limitations does not apply to claims brought against perpetrators and any organization who facilitated the abuse (i.e. “any party whose tortious conduct caused the vulnerable victim to be a victim of sexual abuse”). This law was intended to allow victims to sue seeking compensation for child sexual abuse, including from organizations that allowed abuse (such as the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, the Boy Scouts, private schools, public schools, and other organizations).
This law was passed with overwhelming support of the Arkansas legislature (126 yes votes to only 1 No vote). SB 676 was signed into law by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on April 30, 2021.
What is a statute of limitations?
When a defendant raises the statute of limitations as a defense, they are saying that a victim has brought a claim too late. The statute of limitations is generally an “affirmative defense” based on the passage of time. This means that, when applicable, the statute of limitations can be used to shield a defendant from liability even if the victim proves that the abuse occurred and was the defendant’s fault.
In child sexual abuse cases, the statute of limitations is one of the defendants’ favorite defenses. Arkansas’ “Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act” will eliminate the statute of limitations in many child sexual abuse cases, allowing victims to get compensation for their injuries and they help and healing they need.
Why is Arkansas’ SB 676 important?
This is among the most victim-friendly laws of its kind in the nation. Only California, New York, and New Jersey have reformed their statutes of limitations in a comparable way. The lawyers on our team – especially attorney Josh Gillispie – were instrumental in helping get SB 676 passed. We are very proud to have helped make this important change for survivors of child sexual abuse.
Watch Testimony from Victims’ Attorney Josh Gillispie – 10:42:31 – 10:44:13
Civil cases for child sexual abuse not only allow victims to obtain individual justice but also serve an important role in public justice and increase child safety. These cases help expose perpetrators and organizations that have concealed and facilitated child sexual abuse.
For example, there are currently approximately 879 Arkansas men with claims pending against the Boy Scouts of America and the local councils here in Arkansas, particularly the Quapaw Area Council here in Little Rock, as well as the Caddo Area Council, the De Soto Area Council, the Westark Area Council, and the Chickasaw Council. These cases also include sponsoring organizations like the Salvation Army, the Southern Baptist Church, and other civil and religious organizations.
Some of these perpetrators were known to the supervising organization to be pedophiles, but were allowed to have access to children anyway. One such example is Scout Leader Samuel Otts, who was kicked out of Scouting in Georgia before being allowed to join as a Scout Leader in Arkansas (where he abused many boys). You can read the Boy Scout Secret File on Samuel Otts here.
Our Team will soon be disclosing the names of the some of the most notorious child molesters who perpetrated much of the worst abuse here in Arkansas, both in Scouting and in the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock.
CHECK BACK SOON FOR THE FULL LIST!
When does the “window” open in Arkansas? When will it close?
This “window” or “lookback” period will open at the beginning of November 2021 (6 months after the law took effect). The window is set to close two years after it opens. This means that that victims who want to seek justice for child sexual abuse will need to file suit before the end of October 2023.
What should victims of abuse in Arkansas do now?
Victims of child sexual abuse that occurred in Arkansas should consult with an experienced attorney to learn their options and take action while they can.
Mental Health Resources for Abuse Survivors
Confronting child sexual abuse can be difficult. We encourage survivors to seek mental health support. The following are helpful resources for victims of child sexual abuse:
- 1in6 — offers daily online support groups for men that are confidential, anonymous and facilitated by a counselor: https://supportgroup.1in6.org/
- Male Survivor — offers a discussion forum and moderated chat that allows survivors an opportunity to engage with peers with similar lived experiences:https://malesurvivor.org/healing-conversations/
- RAINN — offers 24/7 anonymous phone support for sexual abuse survivors at: 800-656-4673 and https://www.rainn.org/
- Pandora’s Project – provides support and resources to sexual abuse survivors and their friends & family: https://pandys.org/
Please remember our team is available to answer any of your questions or address any of your concerns. Contact us any time.
How we help victims of abuse in Arkansas
We understand that courage it takes to come forward. We offer victims free, confidential consultations. Our trauma-informed intake specialists are trained in sensitively interviewing victims about difficult events.
Call us now at 1-888-407-0224 or use our Confidential Contact Form
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Why Choose Our Team of Survivors Attorneys?
Together, our team of attorneys have decades of experience representing abuse survivors in civil cases. The attorneys at Green & Gillispie know the Arkansas state court system well and have had success in Arkansas representing abuse survivors against the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, the Southern Baptist Church, and other organizations. The attorneys at Crew Janci LLP have successfully litigated hundreds of cases across the United States against large organizations, including the Mormon Church, the Boy Scouts, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and public and private schools. Attorneys from Crew Janci LLP were part of the Plaintiff’s trial team in Kerry Lewis v. Boy Scouts of America in 2010, which resulted in a $19.9 million verdict of the victim and forced the release of the Boy Scout secret files. Together, our team offers survivors a seasoned team with both national reach and local expertise in representing victims in child sexual abuse cases.