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Guam bill could lift limitations for victims of sex abuse

Associated Press Associated Press 13/09/2016

HAGATNA, Guam — Guam lawmakers have approved legislation that removes the statute of limitations for all sexual abuse crimes, allowing victims to sue their alleged abusers at any time.

The lawmakers voted unanimously in support of the measure Monday. The bill had been introduced by Republican Sen. Frank Blas Jr. a few months ago after several sexual abuse allegations surfaced against former Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who denied the abuse and hasn't been charged with a crime.

Under the legislation, victims would have the opportunity to file civil actions against those they say abused them regardless of when it occurred. They would also be able to sue the institution or entity that was "acting in concert" with the abuser, The Pacific Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/2cnKGKJ).

"We can't give these perpetrators the luxury of hiding behind these crimes because they think that nothing can happen anymore," Blas said. "Victims shouldn't have to live this way . or live knowing that they can't do anything."

The lawmakers' approval of the bill came after Blas received a petition containing signatures from more than 3,000 people who supported the measure. Joseph "Joe" Santos, the founder of Silent No More, an organization that advocates to help victims of child sex abuse, presented Blas with the petition last week.

In 2011, lawmakers approved similar legislation by Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz that abolished the statute of limitations for sex abuse that took place after the date the bill was passed. The bill allowed victims of child sexual abuse to file a civil case within a two-year period.

Cruz said the bill was ultimately watered down with many amendments to remove the "deep pockets" provision, which was included to let victims seek damages from institutions they claimed had a responsibility to protect them.

Blas' bill repeals the provisions of the 2011 legislation.

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