New Law Extends Sexual Child Abuse Statute of Limitations
On October 13, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom approved a bill that gives more time for child sexual abuse survivors to take legal action against the perpetrator and any other responsible parties. Under the previous law, in most cases a victim had only until they were 26 years of age to pursue a claim. Now, victims have until age 40. Additionally, the delay period after the time of discovery of the abuse was only 3 years; the new measure increases it to 5 years.
The new law also suspends the statute of limitations for cases that were previously expired. Between 2020 and 2023, prior child sexual abuse cases can be reopened and brought to court. After 2023, survivors will have until age 40 to pursue a claim.
Underreporting of Child Sexual Abuse
Unfortunately, child sexual abuse is not uncommon. According to RAINN, in 2016, nearly 58,000 people had reported that they were victims. Although that is a large number, it might represent only a small portion of incidents, as many survivors might not report their encounters with abusers.
Often, child sexual abuse goes undisclosed because the child might:
- Blame themselves
- Fear the consequences for the abuser
- Think they won’t be believed
- Not understand what happened
- See the abuser in a respected role within the community
Usually, it takes time for the survivor to process and understand sexual abuse incidents, and coming forward to confront what happened to them could be difficult. If too much time passed between the abuse and the reporting of it, old statutes of limitations left victims with no legal recourse. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who authored the bill, said it was “outrageous” that someone could “run out of time to report that abuse.”
California is the third state after New York and New Jersey to pass a law that extends the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. Such measures give survivors longer to hold their abusers and any other entities, accountable for damages suffered by imposing civil penalties on them. Under previous laws that limited the amount of time a person could initiate a case, offenders weren’t always held responsible and could potentially strike again. Gonzalez also said that “we shouldn't be telling victims their time is up when in reality we need them to come forward to protect the community from future abuse.”
Where Child Sexual Abuse Could Occur
Sadly, child sexual abuse can happen at any time and be perpetrated by people with whom the survivor has a trusted relationship. Recently, numerous reports have surfaced about instances occurring within various institutions, such as those involving Catholic priests, Boy Scouts leaders, and an Olympic team doctor.
Places where child sexual abuse might occur include:
- Doctor’s offices
- Sports practices
- Youth organizations
Schedule a Free Consultation with Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook
Child sexual abuse is never okay, and if you or a loved one is a survivor, you might be able to file a claim and hold the abuser accountable for their actions. Our team has the experience and resources necessary to handle these sensitive matters with compassion and dedication. We will thoroughly investigate your circumstances to build a sound legal strategy and seek just compensation on your behalf.
For one-on-one attention and competent legal representation, call us at (925) 275-5592 or contact us online.