NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Governor Bill Lee signed a bill Tuesday that allows some child sex abuse victims to prosecute their offenders years after they were abused.
However, the bill’s co-sponsor said it makes him uncomfortable to think that an abuser could spend the rest of their life in jail.
The bill removes the statute of limitations so that abuse victims can prosecute their abusers in some circumstances.
While no media was allowed in the room when Governor Lee signed the bill into law before the signing News 2 asked the bill’s co-sponsor, Tennessee State Rep. Mike Sparks, his goals for the bill.
“What I’d like to do with this legislation, and with your help in the media, is to bring some awareness to this problem,” Rep. Sparks said. “That’s really my motivation is to encourage them to get help.”
News 2 also asked Rep. Sparks if he hopes his law will give more victims the choice to prosecute their abusers.
“It’s uncomfortable for me to think that somebody could spend the rest of their life in jail. It’s a little uncomfortable for me to think that but that’s that victim’s decision,” he said.
News 2 asked several followup questions regarding this point, but Sparks did not elaborate further.
Starting July 1, 2019, a state district attorney can prosecute certain child sex crimes years after the offense.
Murfreesboro resident Scott Walker helped shape the bill. He came forward more than two years ago about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. He almost wasn’t able to prosecute his abuser, even when there was evidence.
Walker said the law protects future generations of child sex abuse victims who wait to come forward.
“I think bills like this will allow those who are victims the choice coming forward next year or 20 years from now because I think people wait 20, 30, 40 years before they come forward with the accusations against whoever it was who hurt them,” Walker told News 2.
According to Walker, victims often wait to report their abuse because of embarrassment or fear.
The law has several other stipulations attached to it. You can find the language here.