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'So many are children': KBI report prompts child sexual abuse survivors to re-emphasize reforming system

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Posted at 10:25 PM, Oct 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-31 09:32:27-04

SHAWNEE, Kan. — ​Kim Bergman, who lives in the Kansas City-metro area, was a child when she denied to her parents that a trusted gymnastics coach sexually abused her.

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Her parents never knew until they found letters Bergman wrote when she was around 13 years old. She planned to mail them to a coach who she said was also a victim.

"Sometimes he'd ask what I was wearing and tell me not to wear a bra to practice or that I should wear a red or black one. I didn't know it was happening to anyone else. It was frustrating because I thought he was a good coach, then he would do the bad stuff," Bergman read.

When she was that age, Bergman didn't realize that time was already running out.

"When we heard about him coaching at other gyms, we would contact them to warn them and got him fired from a few places until he opened his own gym and I was terrified," she said. "I drove the 30 minutes out of town and would sit in the parking lot just wanting to go in there and say something, but couldn't do it."

His name is David Byrd, now a convicted sex offender.

"When he was arrested for abusing Tess, he was sentenced as a first-time offender and only got two years because they couldn't use anything from my criminal file," Bergman said.

Lesa Patterson-Kinsey is another victim of abuse. She never had a criminal file.

"Statute of limitations ran out when I was 21," Patterson-Kinsey said.

Patterson-Kinsey didn't tell her story until she was in her 40s.

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Lesa Patterson-Kinsey is a survivor of child sex abuse. She's now a social worker with an organization called, Protecting Kansas Children from Sexual Predators, working toward reform.

"I was sexually abused as a child by my father. It started when I was about 10. I didn’t tell anyone. I waited," she said.

She said she grew up in an abusive household and didn't want to risk "unknown danger" in the foster care system.

"No one in the house was able to keep me safe," Patterson-Kinsey said.

Now, Bergman and Patterson-Kinsey are both social workers and advocates for "Protecting KS Children from Sexual Predators".

Gov. Laura Kelly
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signing a statute of limitations reform bill for child sexual abuse alongside "Protecting KS Children from Sexual Predators".

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation's (KBI) annual report on abuse revealed the victims of most reports of sexual assault are between zero to 19 years old.

Alongside Bergman and Patterson-Kinsey's organization, Bob Lewis, an attorney who became a Kansas State Representative (Republican), helped spearhead reform with SB 2127.

"It did away with statute of limitation for criminal actions," Lewis said. "If you abuse a child, you will be subject to criminal penalty and sanctions until the day you die. On the civil side, we didn't get quite as far as we should have. We extended the statute of limitations from the age of 21 to the age of 31. Progress, but not sufficient."

Even though time ran out on them, the two survivors, want to give it back to others.

"I don't benefit from any of these laws, but the goal has always been to protect children," Patterson-Kinsey said.

Lewis also defined delayed disclosure. In cases of sexual abuse, he said many survivors don't talk about it until they're 52 years old. He said the focus in the next legislative session will be to extend the statute of limitations even further.