DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A Dallas-based attorney who represents survivors of sexual abuse believes the investigation of alleged sex abuse by clergy shows why statewide, the statute of limitations needs to be extended for child victims.
One piece of legislation could make that happen.
“I represent a number of survivors of clergy abuse in the Catholic Church,” attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel said.
She said most of these clients are in their 50s and 60s, waiting decades to talk about what happened to them and seek justice.
The statute of limitations for child sex abuse would start counting the years from the age of 18, just like what’s seen in current Texas law.
“There’s a lot of pressure to keep things silent,” Monica Baez said.
Baez said she was abused by a Houston priest as a toddler. His name is in a list of priests credibly accused of abuse.
“It’s very intimidating,” Baez said. “It’s very scary. Shameful. You don’t know if anyone is going to believe you because you’ve tried. It’s very emotional and you just want to hide.”
“I think particularly when you’re talking about abuse connected to someone’s religion – a religious institution, their faith, that makes it even harder to disclose,” Tuegel said.
Tuegel said that’s why she’s calling on Texas lawmakers to vote in favor of House Bill 3809, which would extend the civil statute of limitations from 15 to 30 years for survivors to file claims.
“These laws need to change and I think today’s raid in Dallas is just further proof that that has to happen,” Tuegel said.
In its original language, the Texas House carved out institutions like the Catholic Church, but on Monday Senator Kirk Watson introduced a committee substitution that would hold institutions accountable as well.
“We have to hold them accountable too because they have the ability to stop it and clearly they failed,” Tuegel said.
This legislation is currently pending in the Texas Senate.