PHOENIX — A former national speed skating champion lent her voice to those who want to give victims of child sexual assault and abuse more time to sue their assailants and any entities that permitted the abuse.
Bridie Farrell said that at age 15 she was an “up and coming speed skater” when she was molested repeatedly by a 33-year-old Olympic silver medalist.
“Whenever I went to training, he was there. Whenever I competed, he was there,” she said Tuesday.
Of particular concern, Farrell said, is this man was investigated in 1990, seven years before she was molested.
“And our paths should have never crossed,” she said. “He should have left the sport when I was entering the sport.”
Farrell, now 37, finally told her story 15 years later.
She said she is supporting a bill sponsored by state Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, to give victims more time to sue.
It is important for survivors to be able to tell their stories “and then to hold the institutions accountable that are facilitating this abuse,” Farrell said. Otherwise, she said, things will not change.
That idea of providing not only more time to sue those who committed the assault, but also those who were in charge and may have hidden what they knew, is one of the sticking points that has so far led to the bill’s failure to advance.
Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, refused to give a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee to the version of the bill Boyer wants.
And, so far, Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, who has the power to yank the bill from Farnsworth and bring it to the floor — where Boyer said there are enough votes for approval — has declined to do so.
Existing law gives those who were victimized as children two years after they turn 18 to file suit.
Boyer wants to extend that to seven years.
More significantly, he wants that clock to start running only when someone is aware they have been victimized, defined in his legislation as disclosing the assault to a licensed medical or mental-health care provider.
He proposes allowing these lawsuits, whenever they are filed, not just against the person who committed the abuse but any public or private corporation, association, firm, estate or “any other legal entity.”
Fann has said she is concerned that could result in a lawsuit against someone who employed another long-gone person years before, leaving the organization unable to defend itself.
Farrell sees it from a different perspective. She contends she was abused by someone the U.S. Olympic Committee knew was abusing children and who should have been kept away from them.
“The issue is when you have an organization that knows there’s a problem with this individual, yet the organization keeps moving them from place to place,” she said. “You have an organization that’s supposed to be helping keep kids safe and be productive members of our society, yet those organizations are harboring it. That’s what needs to be addressed.”
She said that will force organizations to create safeguards to prevent future victims.
For now, there is a stalemate.
Boyer and Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, have said they won’t vote for a state budget plan until Fann allows a vote on Boyer’s bill, leaving Fann without the votes needed among her 17-member GOP caucus.
Fann, however, shows no signs of backing down. And even if Boyer gets the bill out of the Senate, he still needs to have it clear the House.
Sen. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, disclosed on the Senate floor last week that she was raped by her grandfather. She urged that a vote on Boyer’s bill be allowed.
“This is an opportunity for them to do something amazing,” Steele said. “They can either protect the abused children or protect the monsters that do this and those who enable them.”