24 Sep 2016

Guam signs sex abuse bill into law despite church opposition

8:54 am on 24 September 2016

Guam's Governor Eddie Calvo has signed into law a controversial bill that will allow victims of child sex abuse to sue their abusers and the institutions with which they are associated at any time.

Mr Calvo said the new law "opens the doors of justice to those who suffered a terrible harm as children," but also cited several legal and technical concerns with the bill.

Guam's governor, Eddie Calvo.

Guam's governor, Eddie Calvo. Photo: Office of the Governor of Guam

The Pacific Daily News reports one of the concerns is whether it is unconstitutional to retroactively lift the statute of limitations on civil suits.

But the Governor stated, "despite these questions, today I will err on the side of the aggrieved".

Earlier the Catholic Church in Guam collected more than 4,500 signatures for a petition opposing the bill saying that it could expose it to sexual abuse lawsuits which could financially cripple the church and impact the social services it provides.

Archbishop Anthony Apuron and other clergy members have been accused of abusing altar boys decades ago.

The bill signing was welcomed by alleged victims, activists and also local senator Frank Blas who said the focus of the legislation was on the victims and it gave them a voice and the ability to seek justice for the harm that was done.

Temporary Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, issued a written statement, apologising to those who had been abused by clergy in the archdiocese, and announcing the creation of a dedicated fund to help victims.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs