BOISE – Sexually abused children now have a lifetime to seek prosecution of their abuser under a law signed Monday by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.
The law removes a requirement that abused children report the crime before they turn 23 or lose the chance to seek prosecution. It also will help deter sexual abusers, said Rep. Debbie Field, R-Boise, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Donna Boe, D-Pocatello.
“If you have ever done this to a child, you are going to remain accountable,” Field said. “What an honor it is to provide victims a chance to be heard.”
The bill takes effect immediately. The old statute of limitation continues to apply to abuse that occurred in the past.
“With the emergency clause, every day counts,” Senate President Pro Tem Robert Geddes, R-Soda Springs, said at the bill signing ceremony. “This is a great day for the state of Idaho. I hope it’s a horrible day for anyone who ever thinks they can abuse a child in the state of Idaho and get away with it.”
The law drew widespread support from child advocates and residents who themselves had been abused, only to miss the chance to confront their abusers in court.
Rexburg resident Jeff Bird had pushed for the law, saying he was one child who simply wasn’t given enough time to report the man who abused him throughout his childhood. He didn’t report the abuse before he turned 23 because he believed the man was in prison, and when he found out that wasn’t true, the statute of limitation had passed.
Kempthorne praised Bird and others for telling lawmakers about their trauma.
“I’d rather be private,” Bird said, “but we felt it was very important and worth the personal sacrifice to protect the children of Idaho.”
Paul Steed, an eastern Idaho man who had pushed for the bill on behalf of his two sons and several other children who were molested by a Boy Scout counselor, said that although the law wouldn’t help his own family, it would help countless others in the future.
“This has been very, very therapeutic,” he said.
Several bills tightening sex offender laws have been moving through the Idaho Statehouse this year. A bill that would make criminals who sexually abuse and then murder their victims eligible for the death penalty was approved by both the Idaho House and Senate. Kempthorne also signed a bill on Monday that allows local sheriffs to disseminate the names of violent sexual predators in newspapers and on local radio and television stations.
Also on Monday, the Senate approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, that would allow some young men convicted of statutory rape to avoid registering as sex offenders. Under that bill, men under the age of 21 who have consensual sex with a woman no more than three years younger could petition the judge to be freed of the registration requirement. In Idaho, statutory rape protections apply to girls under 18.