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Hovland: No limitations on justice for abused children

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Iowa is now among 14 states in the country to remove the statute of limitations (SOL) for criminal charges on child sexual abuse and exploitation. Iowa SF562 amends the Iowa Code. Many individuals on both sides of the political aisle have been advocating for SOL changes for years. This bill does not eliminate the civil claims time frame of the SOL, which is one year after turning 18 years old or five years after they are no longer enrolled in school/receiving treatment. It is a positive piece of bipartisan legislation.

Personally, I have been holding rallies, lobbying my elected leaders and writing guest columns since 2016, specifically on removing the statute of limitations. I founded "Justice For Our Iowa Children" to shed light on sexual abuse of children. Speaking out for children of sexual abuse, being a voice for them, and advocating for stricter laws, has been an honor for me.

Barbara Hovland

Hovland

I have met survivors of child sex abuse over the last five years. One of those survivors was a 78-year-old woman who I met in Des Moines in August of 2018 at a rally that I held with a friend of mine on the Capitol steps. As we were setting up, I noticed an elderly woman with a folding lawn chair, trudging slowly up the Capitol steps. It was a hot and humid August day. As she set up her chair, under a shady spot, I walked over to her. I thanked her for coming and asked her how she heard about our rally. She stated that she read my guest column in the local paper and wanted to support me. I found out she drove over three hours, one way, to attend. As we stood side by side, I noticed she began to tremble and her hands were shaking. I put my arms around her and she hugged me back. She began to cry and told me that when she was a child, a family member sexually abused her over several years. She had never told anyone until then. Her story is only one out of so many others, sadly.

When SF562 was on the floor of the Iowa Senate, Sen. Chapman told the story of a young Kimberly Gleason. Her stepfather was sexually abusing her as a child. It wasn’t until 2014 when she finally spoke out. Chapman stated that this bill was the most impactful and rewarding legislation that he has ever worked on. Kimberly was a persistent presence this session and her persistence paid off, enough for Senator Chapman to make an amendment to the bill addressing the SOL. When the bill was on the House side, Representative Cherielynn Westrich stood on the floor and stated that this hit close to home for her as well. She courageously stood up and spoke for the first time about the abuse that she endured as a child.

Governor Reynolds signed SF562 on Wednesday, May 12. My hope is that this sends a clear message to pedophiles that prey on children; that you can and will be held to justice, no matter the length of time that goes by. My hope also is that those children who were abused feel some sort of justice. We all must continue to be voices for children who need one.

Barbara Hovland is a Mason City resident.

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