COLUMBUS, Ohio — Child sexual abuse survivors begged Ohio lawmakers Thursday morning to eliminate the statute of limitations, but no legislators attended their press conference.
Advocacy group Ohioans for Child Protection say many of them never get justice, adding that Ohio’s statute of limitations actually helps prevent their abusers from being held accountable.
From the age of eight to 10, Paul Neyer was repeatedly sexually abused by his Cincinnati priest. Thirty-two years later, he began to take his life back.
“It was just unreal, the amount of freedom that came from just saying ‘I was raped,'” Neyer said.
Neyer’s testimony helped convict Geoff Drew of nine counts of rape, to which the pastor pleaded guilty. Neyer was able to help put him behind bars because he was inside Ohio’s statute of limitations.
The average age a child survivor comes forward is 52, according to Child USA. Criminal charges must be brought before the victim turns 43, and civil cases before 30. Neyer was 41.
“[The prosecutor] said it was only an act of God that I was able to get in there,” Neyer added. “[Is God] really protecting in a place where this happened to me?”
Not every victim gets the chance to see their abuser sentenced.
“I was basically robbed from that from Ohio State,” Stephen Snyder-Hill said.
Snyder-Hill is one of the survivors who allege they were groped, fondled, drugged or raped by Dr. Richard Strauss.
He was one of the first victims to come forward, he said, reporting it to the school the following day. School staff told him he must have been “confused.”
But because he was a legal adult during the assault, he had two years for a civil lawsuit.
At the beginning of 2021, Democrats introduced House Bill 266, which would eliminate the statute of limitations, but it hasn’t had one hearing. Other bills around child sex abuse prevention bills have stalled.
“It’s been five years, that behind closed doors, this university has been fighting us,” the survivor said. “What they do [now] is exactly the same thing that they did back then when they protected Strauss.”
This isn’t a Democrat vs. Republican issue, the advocates said. This needs to be bipartisan.
News 5 reached out to the Statehouse leaders and religious-based lobbying groups the survivors addressed, but no one responded. No lawmakers attended the event, either.
OSU, however, did give a statement, denying fighting survivors.
“We offer our deepest regrets and apologies to all who experienced Strauss’ abuse,” said Ben Johnson, OSU spokesperson. “Ohio State has reached settlement agreements with more than half the plaintiffs – 296 survivors – for more than $60 million, and all male students who filed lawsuits have been offered the opportunity to settle.”
Johnson continued to add that OSU has protocols in place and no tolerance for sexual misconduct.
Despite the money, the settlements and the convictions, the scars remain.
“Do I ever feel like I fully made it to my potential? Absolutely not,” Neyer said. “Am I clawing my way up to that potential? Every day.”
Lawmakers credit News 5 reporting for one of the child sex abuse prevention bills, Erin’s Law, moving forward. Advocates hope it will be passed after the November election.