CBS7 INVESTIGATES: Child sexual abuse victims to gain additional rights

An Iowa day care worker is facing charges in the death of a child in her care in December....
An Iowa day care worker is facing charges in the death of a child in her care in December. (Philip Cohen / CC BY-SA 2.0)(KWQC)
Published: Aug. 26, 2019 at 12:54 AM CDT
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Right now, a person sexually abused as a child only has a limited number of years to file a civil lawsuit against their attacker.

Although, thanks to a new "Child Victims Act" the Texas Legislature passed earlier this year, survivors will soon be empowered with a longer statute of limitations.

The act doubles the length of time a victim can sue for personal injury, extending the statute of limitations from 15 to 30 years, but for one Odessa man the extra 15 years isn't long enough.

"Back in the '70s and '80s, if you brought it up it was taboo. If anyone wanted to look into it, you were seen as a fool."

Ray Pacheco was only 5 years old when he said a family member began sexually abusing him.

"I didn't know who to tell, what to tell, how to tell," he said.

Pacheco claimed the unwanted touching went on until he was 10 years old, inside his family's Odessa home, but it took years before he could build up the courage to tell anyone or try to file criminal charges.

His case never saw the light of day.

Although in 1988, when Pacheco was a teenager, the man he said abused him was found guilty by a Brown County jury of aggravated sexual assault of a 2-year-old girl and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

"I blamed myself for not saying something before, because if I would have said something before this would have never happened," Pacheco said.

The abuse has stuck with him all these years.

Documents show he's visited a behavioral hospital. Plus, he said he sees a local mental health specialist regularly for depression, anxiety and PTSD.

"I honestly don't think there should be a statute of limitations on child molestation period. It's worse than murder. At least when you get killed, you don't have to live with it every day. Nobody does, it's over," Pacheco said. "This, I get killed every single day. I get stabbed every single day, all day thinking about it. And then I live in the house where it happened."

Texas' new version of the Child Victims Act extends the time limits for filing a civil suit to 30 years after the victim turns 18 - or in other words, their 48th birthday.

Prior to Governor Greg Abbott signing the bill, the statute of limitations to file these civil suits in Texas was only 15 years, which meant a victim could only make a claim against their abuser until their 33rd birthday.

"I think it's just a more fair opportunity for people who are victims of childhood sex abuse to cope with what happened to them as they age," Odessa attorney Greta Braker said.

Braker specializes in personal injury cases and said she doesn't expect the new law to create a rush of new suits, because these cases are complex and can easily be dismissed or just go away.

"I still think in Texas that lawyers would really want to be sure they have a valid case," Braker explained. "It costs money for a lawyer to file a lawsuit and it takes time, which is money."

Pacheco just turned 48, so he'll miss the window, but he thinks this new law will be good for others wrestling with an abusive past.

In fact, he is encouraging other victims of child sexual abuse to speak out or take action - before it's too late.

"I mean women are doing it, I think it's time for men to do it, too," Pacheco said. "The hardest thing about men is the machismo part of it, but they need to take into consideration that it's not just them, probably."

According to a statistic from Child USA, most child abuse victims don't choose to tell anyone about their abuse until 52 years old - if they do at all.

The new "Child Victim Act" becomes law this Sunday on Sept. 1.