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Hawaii may extend time to sue for child sex abuse

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Victims of child sexual abuse in Hawaii would have more time to file lawsuits against abusers if lawmakers pass one of two bills pending in the Legislature.

In a highly publicized law, victims had been given a two-year window to file suit in cases that have passed the statute of limitations, which led to the filing of many claims. That window is set to close Thursday.

In advance of the deadline, former child model Michael Egan III filed several lawsuits against Hollywood executives, claiming that “X-Men” director Bryan Singer and several others abused him as part of a Hollywood sex ring. Singer and others have denied the allegations. The director’s attorney has called the claims defamatory.

Lawmakers plan to debate the proposals Wednesday afternoon.

Rep. Mele Carroll says it’s important to empower victims of sexual assault no matter how much time has passed.

“Too often, by the time a victim is ready to admit the abuse they have suffered the statute of limitations is expired and the victims are left powerless and unable to receive the justice they deserve,” Carroll said in a statement.

Carroll has introduced House Bill 2034, which seeks to allow victims to file claims against individuals or institutions until they reach age 55.

But State Attorney General David Louie has warned that if filing limitations were lifted or significantly extended, a victim could sue decades after an assault, when memories had faded and witnesses had moved or passed away.

Another proposal, Senate Bill 2687, seeks to extend the filing window for another two years.

Lawmakers are also debating whether the state should continue to be exempt from those lawsuits. Under current law, victims can file suit against private institutions, but not, for example, public schools.

That provision is unfair, said Walter Yoshimitsu, executive director of the Hawaii Catholic Conference. Someone who went to private schools can later accuse a teacher there of sexual abuse.

“The same kid, if he or she were in a public school and wants to accuse a teacher, they cannot sue,” Yoshimitsu said.

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