Guam – Monday marked the first session of the 31st Guam legislature. While there are a number of confirmations and bills on the agenda, the focus during the morning session was on Bill 33, which would repeal the statute of limitations for the prosecution of a sex crime where the victim is a minor.
Bill 33 was introduced by Vice-Speaker B.J. Cruz who is himself a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a catholic priest. The bill would remove the statute of limitations on these types of crimes so that minors can come forward when they are older to report on the abuse.
While the Vice-Speaker has told his story publicly before, two more Senators Monday spoke out about their own experiences with abuse.
Senator Tina Muna Barnes said, “It’s important that this bill passes. I could stand here and talk about what happened to me and my twin sister in the past, but I’m not here about that because my perpetrator is now gone. I always said that if my dad were alive today things might have been different if I had the opportunity to share that, but no I said I’m going to be the better person. If I’m ever afforded the opportunity in my lifetime to make a difference for somebody, then I’m going to do it.”
After Senator Barnes’ tearful admission, Senator Mana Silva-Taijeron relayed her experiences with domestic violence and sexual assault. “I have often spoken out about domestic violence and being a victim myself but what I haven’t spoken publicly about was the fact that I am also a victim of sexual abuse, a sexual assault, about a year and a half ago. Because this is still a case before the Attorney General I can’t disclose the details of the situation. But I know as an adult it was a difficult thing for me to come out and report the crime against myself. It was very very hard for me to call the police on this situation. So you can only imagine what a child is going through and how difficult it is for a child to come forward and report a crime,” said Taijeron.,
Lawmakers discussed a few other bills today including bill 16 which deals with the composition of the territorial parole board, and bill 36 which establishes a Gov Guam mitigation program for business interruption.
Speaker Judi Wonpat says they hope to vote on all ten of the bills on this session’s agenda before the end of the week. “So it just really depends on the body on how soon we are able to deliberate on each of the bills and how soon they are sent down to the voting file that we could very well vote even Wednesday and so it just depends on the pace that the members want to take,” said the Speaker.
The companion bill to bill 33 namely bill 34 did not make it to this session’s agenda. Bill 34 would remove the statute of limitations for civil actions on sex crimes committed against minors.