ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The State Senate is considering a bill that would allow victims of child sexual abuse to sue their abusers, regardless of how long ago the abuse happened.
House Bill 687 is named the Hidden Predator Act of 2019. It would get rid of the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases. Earlier this month, the bill passed in the House of Delegates with 135 votes for and three against.
Thursday, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held a hearing on the bill; it is not clear when that committee might vote on it, but the 2019 legislative session ends on April 8th, so if the bill does not pass through the committee and also the full Senate by midnight on April 8, it will not pass this year.
The sexual abuse of several teenage girls decades ago at Archbishop Keough High School in Southwest Baltimore formed the basis of the Netflix series “The Keepers.”
In the 1990s, two of them came forward and sued the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Jean Hargadon Wehner and Teresa Lancaster. In the lawsuit they were referred to as Jane Doe and Jane Roe.
After a recent change in Maryland law, survivors have until they are 38 years old to file a lawsuit. On Thursday, Lancaster was back in Annapolis, arguing that doesn’t go far enough. She and many other survivors of sexual abuse attended the Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing.
"These abuses happen through the family members, cousins, uncles, the coach, people in power," Lancaster said. "Across the board we need statute of limitations removed so these victims who have dealt with years and years of not knowing who they were. For many years I thought I was insane.”