Autism coverage bill clears committee after years of rejection
A House of Delegates committee has advanced legislation that would mandate coverage for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder ... and a bill has advanced that would expand the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse in filing civil suits.
The House Commerce and Labor Committee has killed proposals to mandate coverage for children with autism in past sessions, but advanced the legislation for consideration of the full body after it received the stamp of approval from Speaker of the House Bill Howell of Fredericksburg.
Howell: I was very pleased when I met with the proponents of this plan to see that they had really crafted a bill that was very narrowly drawn and does not have that financial impact on either the individual employer or the state that previous plans had. I think it still accomplishes a lot. The years when a child is between two and six are the times that you really need to be interacting. It has caps. I believe it’s a prudent plan that is going to work well.
In other news, a bill has been introduced that would dramatically expand the amount of time victims of sexual abuse have to file civil lawsuits against their abusers. The House version of the bill currently extends that period from 2 to 8 years, while the Senate version extends it to 20 years.
The Catholic Church has said they believe 20 years is excessive and could lead to false accusations.
Becky Ianni is the Director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
Ianni: One out of every four women is abused by the age of 18. I am one of those women. In 1965, when I was 8, a newly ordained priest, Father William Rieneke joined our parish. He would eat dinner at our house two and three times a week.
All the parents loved and trusted him. I loved and trusted him. Father Rieneke used this trust and love to sexually abuse me. He was my friend and he was my own personal god and he betrayed me. He started fondling me and raping me with his hands at the age of 9. The abuse continued for over two years. I never told anyone as a child. I was told that God would be mad at me and I would go to hell. Nothing could be worse for a devout little Catholic girl. I had been taught that priests were called by God; therefore I believed the abuse was my fault. My terror of going to hell and being found out was so great that I went deep inside myself during the abuse so I could pretend it wasn’t happening. I buried it deep in my mind. I have come to believe that this is the only reason I was able to survive what happened to me as a child.
These memories stayed buried for close to 40 years until five years ago at the age of 48, I came across a childhood photo of myself with my abuser. All those feelings I experienced as a child came rushing back. I’ve spent many times curled up on my bathroom floor crying; sometimes even praying I won’t wake up in the morning. Unfortunately, my case is not unique; the majority of victims of childhood sex abuse aren’t able to come forward until their 40’s, 50’s or even later. Victims usually suffer lifelong consequences. The suicide rate among those who are sexually abused as children is four times higher than the general population.
I feel strongly that the longer victims have to come forward, the more perpetrators we will see exposed, thus making Virginia safer for our children.
The legislature is also considering a bill that would quantify damages for instances of child pornography at a thousand dollars per offense.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square