|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:|
ATLANTA— State Representative Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) today announced that the first civil claim was filed in Camden County superior court on August 20, 2015 using the new Georgia Hidden Predator Act. Sponsored by Rep. Spencer during the 2015 legislative session, the law became effective July 1 and changes Georgia’s statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases.
“The purpose of the Hidden Predator Act was to open halls of justice, and the courthouse doors are now unlocked” said Rep. Spencer. “For too long, our laws protected pedophiles and the institutions that harbored them. The Hidden Predator Act empowers the victims to confront their perpetrators and their accomplices in the court room. When victims come forward, this law will expose these child sexual predators in the communities where they are hiding and enhance child protections. My hope is that this law will be used in an appropriate manner to serve justice to those who, in the past, were being denied.”
The civil suit, filed on behalf of seven men from Kingsland, Georgia, who are now suing their former Taekwondo coach, claims that the men were sexually assaulted by their coach when they were in their teens. Previously, criminal charges could not be filed in this case because the statute of limitations had run out for all of these victims. This suit is the first of its kind in the state since the law changed on July 1, 2015 with the passage of the Hidden Predator Act by the Georgia General Assembly.
“Thanks to the hard work of Jason Spencer and survivor Justin Conway and many other advocates, Georgia moved from being one of the worst states for access to justice for child sex abuse victims to one of the better states,” said Marci Hamilton, professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “The first Hidden Predator Act lawsuit filed for 7 men abused by their taekwondo instructor and endangered by the negligence of major organizations like the AAU was only possible due to the passage of the HPA. This is the start of a new era of child protection for Georgia.”
The Hidden Predator Act changes the statute of limitations for civil claims arising from childhood sexual abuse in Georgia. Under the new law, a plaintiff must file a cause of action by the age of 23, or within two years from the date he or she knew or had reason to know of the abuse and the injury caused from the abuse, which must be verified by medical or psychological evidence. The Act also provides a two-year retroactive civil suit window after July 1, 2015: A plaintiff who was barred from bringing a suit due to the expiration of the statute of limitations period that was previously in effect has two years to file a suit against an individual who allegedly committed the abuse. Unless the new statute of limitations period for childhood sexual abuse applies, a plaintiff who was under 18 when the cause of action occurs now has the same amount of time allowed by the statute of limitations to bring a suit after he or she turns 18. Additionally, the Act allows a plaintiff who is suing for childhood sexual abuse to access records and reports concerning the abuse case that state or local governments possess.
Representative Jason Spencer represents the citizens of District 180, which includes Camden, Charlton, and Ware counties. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010, and currently serves as the Secretary of the Special Rules Committee. He also serves on the Game Fish & Parks, Human Relations & Aging, and Juvenile Justice committees.
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Contact: Betsy Lynch