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Victims, advocates ask Missouri lawmakers to approve measure to allow retroactive sexual assault lawsuits


Victims of child sexual abuse and advocates are gathering in Jefferson City to pressure the Missouri attorney general to investigate several Christian boarding schools.

Monday morning, victims and advocates with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests plan to rally in front of the Missouri Supreme Court building. The group hand delivered a letter to Attorney General Andrew Bailey asking him to look into several Christian boarding schools in Missouri.

The group says four Christian boarding schools or sleepaway camps in Missouri face allegations: Lighthouse Christian Academy, Circle of Hope Girls’ Ranch, Kanakuk Kamps and Agape School, which was recently closed after several allegations surfaced.

When ABC 17 asked Bailey about the calls for investigation, he said "I will always fight for Missouri to be the safest state in the nation for children."

The cases against Circle of Hope have a trial date set for the end of October; the defendants face over 100 counts including dozens of felonies.

The rally comes ahead of an afternoon hearing on a Senate bill that would strengthen Missouri's law against child sex predators. One part of the bill would, if passed, allow victims to file lawsuits against predators no matter how much time has passed.

Survivors and advocates testified before a senate committee in favor of a resolution that would allow victims to file lawsuits against predators no matter how much time has passed.

Elizabeth Phillips spoke on behalf of her brother, who died by suicide after pursuing legal action against a Missouri christian overnight camp, which she says was rushed and insufficient.

"Trey was silenced to his grave by Kamp Kanakuk Ministries," Phillips said. "Kanakuk claims to have hosted 500,000 children at their multiple camps in the Ozarks. Yet their decades long history of child sexual abuse was only recently exposed to the public."

In response to allegations, Kanakuk ministries said, "We are forever sorry for the pain inflicted on victims and their families." The camp continues to operate and has a section on its website dedicated to answering questions on the abuse.

Insurance companies testified against the proposed law change, saying it would drive up insurance costs.

The insurance companies representative said a compromise they would be willing to make is to eliminate the statute of limitations for lawsuits against individuals, but keep it for institutions. Abuse victims advocates said this is not acceptable and institutions need to be held accountable.

"It's frankly a recipe for disaster to have private for profit institutions with little or no government oversight or regulation," said David Clohessy with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

If this resolution is passed by lawmakers, Missourians could vote on whether to implement it in November. 

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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