A state representative is opening up for the first time about his experience as a victim of child abuse.
Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, is sharing his story in an effort to pass two bills that would give victims more time to come forward.
The state House of Representatives is voting on House Bill 1468 and House Bill 1470 Monday, and there may or may not be a debate, but McDugle encourages his colleagues to think about the victims like him.
Before now, McDugle could count on one hand the number of people he told about his experience with his youth minister. As a young teenager, the popular minister was the epitome of cool among his church friends.
“Finally, one night, I got an invitation to go to his house and stay the night, like a lot of kids that always talked about going,” McDugle said.
To this day, he still does not know how many of his peers were exposed to abuse there.
“He put me in his bed and put on some movies that we shouldn’t have watched and proceeded to think that he could touch me wherever he wanted to touch me and wanted me to touch him places,” McDugle said.
Through his service in the Marines up until he was elected into the Legislature last year, McDugle did not mention what happened.
Now, he is thinking of the thousands of other victims who have endured worse.
“That one night, for me, took me 35 years to get to a point that I could actually openly talk about it,” he said. “I’m a Marine Corps veteran, a drill instructor, so it’s not a story that I wanted to tell.”
Right now, Oklahomans have to report child abuse by the time they reach 31 years old if they want to press criminal charges, and they only have two years after the abuse to seek damages from their abuser. The bills change both those limits to the age of 45.
Opponents argue these bills could lead to more false accusations. The legislation does make it a felony for anyone who falsely reports child abuse, and McDugle said he hopes that provision allows skeptics to change their minds.
“Whether it’s a teacher taking advantage of a kid, a representative taking advantage of a kid, we have to do all we can to stand for that kid because I promise you that kid won’t be able to stand for themselves,” McDugle said.