BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed legislation removing deadlines for Louisiana’s child sex abuse victims to pursue damages in civil court.

New Orleans Representative Jason Hughes said House Bill 492 also has a caveat for victims who have aged out giving them a window of three years to seek damages. Until now, child sex abuse victims had until their 28th birthday to initiate litigation over their abuse. But, research shows the average age for victims to come forward is age 52.

“A three-year widow will open to Louisiana to any victim who has timed out of the statute of limitations to go back and file a lawsuit regardless of their age,” said Hughes.

Hughes said he did not realize the impact his legislation would have until he began to hear from survivors of child sex abuse. He said he’s received emotional feedback from abuse survivors thanking him for the bill, saying the survivors “just wanted someone to listen to (them) for so long" and that they told him that they "finally feel our policymakers are listening to us."

Hughes said passage of the bill was truly a bipartisan effort and the law puts the abuser on notice.

“(Those) who prey(s) on our children in any form...will not be tolerated in the state of Louisiana and we are no longer going to protect predators that prey on our children,” said Hughes.

The law applies to a wide range of child sex abuse victims. Hughes' bill received final passage on the session's last day and received key support from people who were abused by Catholic priests and deacons.

The new law takes effect Aug. 1.

(Story written by Brooke Thorington/Louisiana Radio Network)

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