Iowa woman sues her father over sexual abuse, but faces legal hurdles

By: - June 10, 2022 2:46 pm

An Iowa woman is suing her father for sexually abusing her as a child five years ago when she was 15 years old. (Photo by Getty Images)

An Iowa woman who is suing her father for sexually abusing her as a child is facing legal challenges tied to the Iowa Legislature’s inaction on a bill that would have removed the statute of limitations in such cases.

The woman, identified by her attorneys only as Jane Doe, is suing Joshua Lee Kniesly, her biological father.

Her lawsuit alleges that on April 1, 2017, when Doe was 15, Kniesly provided her with alcohol and encouraged her to consume it to the point where she became extremely intoxicated and lost consciousness.

While she was unconscious, the lawsuit alleges, Kniesly raped her over the course of several hours. Kniesly was criminally charged with sexual abuse.

While out on bond, Kniesly allegedly harassed and stalked Doe, resulting in the Polk County Attorney’s Office seeking an order to hold Kniesly in contempt of court for violating a no-contact order.

Kniesly eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of incest and was sentenced to a prison term of no more than 10 years.

In the April of this year, Doe alleges, she learned her father was about to be paroled and she began experiencing nightmares, distress, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, and flashbacks, all of which are associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She is now suing Kniesly for past and future medical care, and for past and future pain, suffering and mental anguish.

Attorneys for Kniesly are asking the court to dismiss the case. They note that Doe turned 18 in April 2020, and they cite an Iowa law that says a victim of child sexual abuse has one year after turning 18 to file a lawsuit against their abuser. Under the law, they argue, Doe’s lawsuit was filed one year too late and should be barred from proceeding.

A judge has yet to rule on the motion to dismiss the case.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers considered, but did not approve, legislation that would give survivors of childhood sexual assault more time to pursue civil cases against abusers.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, said at the time that Iowa was “way, way overdue” in reforming its statute of limitations for sexual assault survivors.

Senate File 2095 would have eliminated any statute of limitations for civil cases initiated by the victims of child sexual abuse against a convicted abuser. The bill was opposed by the Iowa Association of School Boards, Iowa Insurance Association and Iowa Defense Counsel Association.

Democrats tried unsuccessfully multiple times to advance Senate File 32, which would have eliminated the lawsuit deadline for survivors of child sexual abuse regardless any criminal action against the alleged abuser.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.