The greatest challenge facing survivors of child sexual abuse when seeking civil justice remains the archaic statute of limitations in many jurisdictions which forces survivors to file a lawsuit long before they are emotionally or psychologically prepared to do so. In some cases, child victims have until age 20 or 21 to file a lawsuit. In other jurisdictions, the statute of limitations begins to run — and can even expire — during the victim’s childhood if the parent or guardian is aware of the abuse, even if the parent is unwilling to file a lawsuit. These harsh laws deny victims any meaningful access to the Courts.
It often takes decades for victims to acknowledge their abuse. As teenagers and young adults, many victims are not equipped to face their accusers. In recent years, however, a movement has spread to expand the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving sexual offenses. These efforts have met with mixed success. In states like Hawaii, California, Delaware, and Minnesota, the legislatures have enacted "window" legislation which provides a window of time for time for older cases to be brought forward without a statute of limitations defense. These laws have allowed countless predators and enablers to be exposed, which not only provides justice to the victims bringing the claims but also protects children in the future. Nevertheless, some states have rejected such legislation, while others including New York, Georgia, and Utah are presently considering bills that would eliminate the statute of limitations. Not surprisingly, this kind of legislation is often opposed by insurance companies as well as the leadership of Catholic Dioceses, who despite their public statements of apology and support toward abuse victims continue to oppose legal remedies that would assist their victims.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of child sexual abuse, you should not assume that the statute of limitations has expired — even if the abuse occurred decades ago. The laws are constantly changing and the abuse may have occurred in a jurisdiction that has already or will in the future expand or eliminate the deadline to bring such a lawsuit.
Our attorneys are experienced in representing survivors of sexual abuse in civil lawsuits throughout the country. If you or someone you know was a victim of child sexual abuse, please contact our law firm at (954) 524-2820 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected].