Legislators Debate Changes To Sexual Abuse Prosecutions

Jan 28, 2015

Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R) SD7
Credit Montana Legislature

Today at the Montana Capitol, legislators heard a bill allowing victims of childhood sexual abuse to prosecute their abusers indefinitely.

Republican Senator Jennifer Fielder of Thompson Falls is carrying Senate Bill 187 and says people sexually abused as children often won’t tell until much later, often because of coercion.

“Convincing them not to tell. ‘Please don’t tell on me. Please don't tell, I’ll be in such big trouble. It’s our secret."

Niki Zupanic of the Montana ACLU says the laws are already strong in Montana, allowing convictions up to ten years after the victim's 18th birthday. Zupanic says this would only make convictions more difficult.

“Memories fade, witnesses die or relocate … evidence is lost.”

Another part of the bill would make falsely reporting a childhood rape a felony offense. Opponents worried this could cause people to not report abuse, fearing prosecution themselves.​