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Kansas woman questions whose rights matter more, abusers or survivors?

Updated: Mar. 30, 2022 at 5:00 AM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - How long is too long to wait to take an abuser to court? In Kansas, there’s a push to extend that time. Right now, time can run out—and an abuser is off the hook. At least as far as civil cases are concerned.

But there’s a move to change that after several women started speaking out about how they were abused as children.

Kim Bergman said she was 12 years old when her gymnastics coach began sexually abusing her. She’s 36 now.

She did not know that in Kansas, childhood sexual assault survivors only have until they are 21 to take their abusers to court.

KBI report of David Byrd
KBI report of David Byrd(KCTV5)

“No one tells you that a clock has started when this happens to you,” said Bergman.

She eventually reported the abuse to others, including police. DCF substantiated the abuse in 2002, it even named the abuser in a letter to Kim’s mother in 2012.

“The perpetrator who was substantiated for the sexual abuse of your daughter… was David Byrd,” the letter read. He was Kim’s gymnastics coach.

A KBI report of David Byrd
A KBI report of David Byrd(KCTV5)

Despite that information, the prosecutor never filed charges. The case never went to criminal court.

Seven years later, another accuser stepped forward. This time, David Byrd was convicted of felony indecent liberties with a child, and he was put on the Kansas Sexual Offender Registry.

Criminal VS Civil Court

Even though a prosecutor declines to press charges, an accuser could take an alleged abuser to civil court. But in Bergman’s case, she couldn’t even do that. As the law stands in Kansas, childhood sexual assault survivors only have until they are 21 to take their abusers to court.

Many say the time limit isn’t realistic. It takes time for survivors to process abuse and state the legal process for accountability.

Senate Bill 420 would change that and allow accusers more time to take abusers to civil court and end the requirement that accusers most prove an illness or injury.

Bergman says it isn’t about the money—it’s about accountability and exposing predators.

“I feel like throughout my life I’ve been told that my abuser’s rights matter more than mine,” said Bergman. “If you can make somebody known, at least through the civil system. that can help warn the public about someone like this.”

Status of Senate bill 420

State Senator Cindy Holscher, a Republican from Overland Park, is sponsoring Senate Bill 420. It would change the time limitation and end the requirement that accusers most prove an illness or injury. Holscher says the bill would simply put Kansas with 38 other states that have reformed their statutes. But it’s run into some opposition.

She admits there has been push back from lobbyists representing those who might see financial consequences from childhood abuse.

“You know, honestly, the biggest concern that comes up is really from the church,” says Holscher. “We know many of these instances where children have been victimized by clergy, or law enforcement or even family members. There’s never been a criminal case. So, they’ve never been able to pursue justice. That’s why the civil case is so important.”

But the bill has not moved out of committee, meaning it hasn’t been brought before the full senate for consideration.

We contacted State Senator Kellie Warren about it. She’s the person responsible for moving it forward. We asked for an interview or comment, but she’s not responded to either request.

Berman and others are not only speaking out, but also pushing a petition encouraging people to force the issue. “Failing to set this bill for hearing failing to pass this bill is saying that they’re choosing the rights of pedophiles over survivors,” said Bergman. “And sometimes it just feels like, how many times can we get knocked down?”

We reached out to David Byrd for comment but were turned away.