The Iowa House has given final approval to a bill that immediately removes the time limit for filing criminal charges against people accused of sexually abusing a child. During House debate Friday (5/7), Representative Cherielynn Westrich of Ottumwa spoke publicly for the first time about the abuse she suffered as a child.
“It was only as an adult that I was finally able to come to terms and to talk openly about this. I even had to write down my statement because it’s emotional and it’s hard to face,” Westrich says. “…I think we need to support those victims who find the courage to speak out, who find the courage to come forward no matter how long it takes them.” Westrich says this law change gives victims a chance to get justice.
“As a small child, I was sexually abused by a babysitter. It was something that I felt a lot of shame for. I was very confused. I was afraid to speak out, but I told my parents, but I wasn’t believed — at that time,” Westrich says. “They’ve since come back and apologized. My mother has cried many nights that she didn’t believe me.” Westrich says as a teenager, she was part of a group who were supporting a friend who had been sexually abused and the memories of her own abuse returned. And her siblings remembered being the babysitter locking them out of the house so he could be alone with her. Westrich asked her colleagues to think about all the victims of child sex abuse.
“One in five girls and one in 20 little boys are sexually abused,” she said. “How many perpetrators is that, that get away with it? That’s a lot of perpetrators. That’s a lot of children that are being hurt.”