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Skating champ sexually abused at 15 supports Arizona bill to aid victims

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PHOENIX — A former Olympic trial speed skater wants Arizona lawmakers to give child sex abuse victims more time to sue their attackers.

Bridie Farrell has been called courageous for sharing her story of assault. That’s an empty term to her.

“Stop praising and giving lip service to survivors, but actually stand up and support legislation that will make tomorrow safer for all of our children,” Farrell said at a Tuesday news conference at the State Capitol.

She said Olympic silver medalist Andy Gabel sexually abused her when she was 15 and he was 33.

Farrell said she couldn’t sue her attacker because the statutes of limitations in two states expired on her.

Now she’s joining Arizona state senators who want to expand the state’s statute of limitations from two years after a victim turns 18 to seven years.

SB 1255 would not only apply to suing attackers, but also organizations that fail to report an allegation of child sex abuse.

“And if you have an organization that’s supposed to be helping kids be safe and be productive members of society, yet those organizations are harboring it, that’s what needs to be addressed,” Farrell added.

“We’re going to see institutions being able to realign themselves with their goals and the missions of those organizations, which are youth-serving and community-serving organizations.”

Critics say accusations could fly decades after possible attacks, when no evidence remains.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee won’t hear the bill amid concerns it could hurt statute of limitations laws.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Boyer (R-Glendale), says insurance companies covering youth groups would have one reason to fear it.

“If it’s found that under their care, an employee or a volunteer knowingly covered up a sexual assault of a child, then, yes, they should be held liable,” Boyer said.

He pledges he won’t let his bill die in the Legislature and has threatened not to vote on the state budget unless the bill advances. But if the bill does die, Boyer said he will make it a ballot initiative.

“This would pass overwhelmingly by the citizens of Arizona, if it was put to them. Same with the Legislature. If it was put to the body, it would pass,” he predicted.

“I’m working on getting more members to come forward, but we do know — in just having talked to members — if it gets put up on the board, they’re going to vote for this.”

Boyer said child sex abuse victims, on average, report the crime in their 40s.

In a statement to KTAR News 92.3 FM, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said:

“I am not now, nor have I ever been, opposed to giving victims of sexual assault, child molestation, or sexual misconduct with a child more time to bring a claim against an individual, group, or institution responsible for the offensive conduct or for covering up offensive conduct. I have never lobbied for or against any bill seeking to extend Arizona’s statute of limitations for bringing forth a civil claim involving this type of offensive conduct and I encourage the Legislature to remedy what is among the nation’s most stringent statute of limitations. As a consequence, I have no objection to the current legislation. I urge the Legislature to take action this session.”

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