COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio’s statute of limitations on sex crimes is in the spotlight after a year of several high-profile cases, and survivors are now renewing calls at the Ohio Statehouse to change the laws in 2022.
“In Ohio, we’re not doing anything to prevent this, we’re just crossing our fingers and hoping that this has stopped,” said abuse survivor Chris Graham.
Graham was raped by a priest when he was a teenager. By the time he remembered the assault, it was too late for him to file a civil lawsuit in Ohio and his attacker was dead. Graham said he would like to see statutes of limitations removed from sex crimes in Ohio.
“What a civil lawsuit does is it creates a scary thing for organizations who protect pedophiles,” Graham said. “To me, this doesn’t look like victims who want a payday; this looks like organizations who don’t want to have to pay out, who don’t want to be held accountable.”
Lawmakers who oppose changing these laws cite failing memories and, like in Graham’s case, a dead attacker, as reasons to keep the law as is.
“If we’re going to let people sue when they’re in their 50s for stuff that happened when they were 18,19,20 or 21, to me that’s too long,” said Ohio Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati).
Senate Bill 226 may be a compromise. It would extend the period of limitation for child abuse or neglect from the age of majority to age 26; the current law sets the age at 18. Graham is hoping a second hearing on the bill will be scheduled soon, allowing survivors to testify and tell their stories.
“This is probably the most reasonable, but I cannot predict whether the Senate will pass that bill,” Seitz said.
Graham said the bill is a way to start the conversation, but he would eventually like to see more aggressive changes. He said his fear is the longer these changes take, the more children will be hurt like he was.
“Children are being raped because these people know that Ohio is a pretty good place to do that, that your likelihood of being free until the day you die, like my attacker was, is highly likely in the state of Ohio,” he said.