A newly-signed law is giving hope to victims of child sexual abuse in Arkansas.
Act 1036, or the Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act, increases the statute of limitations in civil lawsuits from 21 to 55 years old. That means a victim has until they are 55 years old to file a child sexual abuse lawsuit in Arkansas.
There is also a two-year revival period that begins six months from now. Any suits that were previously thrown out because of the old statute of limitations can be brought forward again.
“Whether he or she be 95 years old or 27 years old, whatever, will have a right to bring a case not only [against] the perpetrator but also the organization whose negligence or other tortuous acts allow that perpetrator to prey on these children," said attorney Joshua Gillispie.
Four Arkansas men spoke publicly Thursday to express their gratitude for the new legislation. For many of them, it had been at least 40 years before they decided to tell anyone about the abuse they endured. Because of this law, they said, telling their story now matters.
“It needed to be done," said plaintiff and victim Lavelle Campbell. "It needed to be corrected. This wrong needed to be right. Our council, the legislators, have opened their eyes [to] what it is that we went through as young men. And now we can stop it or at least slow it down.”
While compensation is a big reason why they brought these suits against the Boy Scouts of America, it’s not the only reason why. Plaintiff William Stevens said he was sexually abused while in a troop in Hot Springs.
"The end goal is to heal," he said. "We’re 50-something years old and we came forward, and it’s because we don’t care what people think anymore. What are they going to do to us that they haven’t already done? But if we can help somebody else, then maybe my life was worth it. And that’s all that matters.”
There is also a bankruptcy lawsuit the Boy Scouts of America filed in Delaware. Nearly 900 Arkansas men have filed claims in the suit.
In a written statement to KATV, the Boy Scouts of America said it's "deeply saddened by the pain and suffering that survivors endured." The organization said many sexual abuse claims happened before implementation of their modern youth protection policies.
"As part of the Scouting organization, we are committed to fulfilling our social and moral responsibility to equitably compensate survivors while also ensuring that Scouting can continue to serve youth, families, and local communities in Arkansas for years to come," the group said.