SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Survivors of childhood sexual abuse gathered at the State Capitol Monday to share their stories and speak out about a Utah Supreme Court decision that re-instated the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases.
Child abuse cases are restricted by a statute of limitations, a time-limit to investigate and prosecute allegations. Last year the Utah Legislature passed a bill removing that limit, but last week the Utah Supreme Court struck down that bill in a case brought by survivor Terry Mitchell.
Mitchell said, “I am not the only one and as long as we turn a blind eye to it, we are all to blame. Had I not gone the way that I’ve gone, I would have never believed that Utah could treat victims so poorly.”
Five victims shared their stories, most were abused as young children by a family member.
Alissa Perez said, “My stepfather decided he would drill holes into my bedroom door, my shower and bathroom doors.”
Laura VonGermeten said she was abused for two years by a step-brother; she said, “I was silenced with the common threat that if I told my dad, my dad would kill him then go to prison for murder and that all of that would be my fault.”
Jamie Nagle is a survivor and the former mayor of Syracuse. She said, “My childhood was stolen by my assailant. But not only did he steal my childhood, when I managed to come forward, he convinced my family that I was lying or needed to be quiet.”
Many like Nagle shared stories of reporting, then being silenced.
Laura VonGermeten was moving forward with a case and even had a recorded confession from her abuser, but said, “The District Attorney revealed that his stake president threatened to withhold his temple recommend if he moved forward.”
Alissa Perez says she reported to her ecclesiastical leader within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints; “DCFS was never called by the Church, by LDS Family Services; the police were never called.”
All explained that the statute of limitations was now the main hurdle keeping them from justice.
Allison Leishman said, “This has been 46 years of my life, only three years ago did I have the courage to stand up and say something. I went to the Centerville police but guess what? The statute of limitations has expired and they can do nothing.”
Representative Angela Romero championed the legislation struck down. Romero explained, “This bill was a way of saying, we believe you, we support you. I will continue to work on making sure we get there as a state. Whether that’s a resolution, getting it on the ballot, I’m looking at all of the options right now.”
Romero says a constitutional amendment is the only viable solution and it would require a general vote.