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Federal Child Sexual Abuse Bill Proposed to Remove Statutes of Limitations

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Federal Child Sexual Abuse Bill Proposed to Remove Statutes of Limitations

Federal Child Sexual Abuse Bill Proposed to Remove Statutes of Limitations

Nov 1, 2021

Two U.S. senators have introduced bipartisan legislation in an effort to ensure that survivors of childhood sexual abuse may seek justice through civil lawsuits without being barred by statues of limitations. Federal civil remedy statute, 18 U.S. Code § 2255, also known as the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2021, was proposed last week by Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn and Illinois Democrat Senator Dick Durbin. Durbin also serves as Senate Majority Whip and Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Under the proposed bill, survivors of over a dozen childhood sex crimes would be eligible to seek damages through civil lawsuits in federal court regardless of how long ago an offense occurred.
“Finally eliminating civil child sexual abuse statutes of limitations will allow survivors to have their day in court and a moment of healing,” Senator Durbin said. “This is commonsense, bipartisan legislation and I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support.”

The statute of limitations for sexual abuse offenses should never prohibit young survivors from getting the justice they deserve,” Senator Blackburn said. “The bipartisan effort to eliminate the civil child sexual abuse statute of limitations is a critical step to guarantee survivors their day in court.

Currently, survivors of childhood sexual abuse have 10 years from the date the crime occurred or until their 18th birthday to file a civil lawsuit in federal court, according to 18 U.S. Code § 2255.

For many survivors of childhood sexual abuse, properly processing the incident and then coming forward to report the crime is a uniquely personal experience that can often take decades to reach fruition. Accordingly, statutes of limitations barring survivors of childhood sexual abuse from making claims have impeded countless paths to justice.

Research data provided by CHILD USA, the National Think Tank for Child Protection, indicates that due to delayed disclosure, the average age a survivor of childhood sexual abuse discloses the crime is 52. In recent years, a number of states including California (AB 218) have amended their child sex abuse laws to expand or eliminate statutes of limitations.

But current federal statutes of limitations remain in place. Under the civil remedy statute, a number of obstacles to justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse are to be found despite there being no statute of limitations barring criminal prosecutions for such offenses. Congress extended the statute of limitations for federal child sex abuse civil claims in 2018, allowing survivors to file a lawsuit up to age 28 (or 10 years from the date of the crime or discovery of an injury resulting from the abuse). However, that newly extended statute of limitations under federal law still fails to reflect research on delayed disclosure in childhood survivors.

Bravo to Senator Durbin and Senator Blackburn on their bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims under § 2255. The science of traumatology is clear – it takes years for victims to come forward. As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I know well the silencing effects of fear, shame, anxiety, and PTSD. Child sexual abuse is at epidemic proportions with 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 13 boys being abused before their 18th birthday. We are amid a national movement to reform statute of limitations. This bill will honor basic notions of justice, it will prevent re-victimization of brave survivors while holding wrongdoers fully accountable. By addressing the unintended effects in 18 U.S. Code § 2255 that protects predators, victims can take a steady step towards healing,” Kathryn Robb, Esq., Executive Director of CHILD USAdvocacy and survivor of child sexual abuse, said in a recent statement.

Dordulian Law Group’s partner organization, RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence non-profit, issued the following statement via social media:

This bill will help survivors access the justice they are owed, regardless of when they come forward.

In addition to CHILD USA and RAINN, the proposed legislation has been endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV).

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) cosponsored the bill with Blackburn and Durbin.

The Scope of Child Sexual Abuse in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe child sexual abuse as a “significant but preventable public health problem.” Current CDC data indicates:

  • About one in four girls and one in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse at some point in childhood.
  • 91% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child or child’s family knows.
  • The total lifetime economic burden of child sexual abuse in the United States in 2015 was estimated to be at least $9.3 billion (although this is likely an underestimate of the true impact of the problem due to child sexual abuse being significantly underreported).

A recent CDC report indicates that experiencing child sexual abuse is what’s referred to as an “adverse childhood experience,” the effects of which can be devastating. The more common physical health consequences that can result from childhood sexual abuse, according to the CDC, include:

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Physical injuries
  • Chronic conditions later in life, such as heart disease, obesity, and cancer

Examples of potential mental health consequences from child sexual abuse include:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms

Examples of potential behavioral consequences of child sexual abuse include:

  • Substance use/abuse (including opioid misuse)
  • Risky sexual behaviors, meaning behaviors that could result in pregnancy or STIs such as not using condoms or other contraceptives, or sex with multiple partners
  • Increased risk for suicide or suicide attempts

Another outcome commonly associated with child sexual abuse is an increased risk of re-victimization throughout a person’s life, according to the CDC. Examples of such outcomes found through recent studies include:

  • Females exposed to child sexual abuse are at two-13 times increased risk of sexual victimization in adulthood
  • Individuals who experienced child sexual abuse are at twice the risk for non-sexual intimate partner violence

Data compiled by RAINN indicates that childhood sexual abuse is a “widespread problem,” with Child Protective Services either substantiating or finding evidence for a claim of such abuse every nine minutes.

In 2016 alone, RAINN data confirms that Child Protective Services agencies found strong evidence to indicate 57,329 children were victims of sex crimes.

In terms of when children are most commonly impacted by sexual abuse, RAINN data indicates that two out of every three survivors are between the ages of 12 and 17. Additionally, RAINN confirms the following data on child sexual abuse:

  • One in 9 girls and one in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.
  • 82% of all victims under 18 are female.
  • Females ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

Furthermore, RAINN data confirms survivors of child sexual abuse are more likely than non-victims to experience the following:

  • About four times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse
  • About four times more likely to experience PTSD as adults
  • About three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults

Filing a Child Sexual Abuse Civil Lawsuit and Recovering Financial Compensation

Under new legislation known as California AB 218, survivors of childhood sexual abuse are currently eligible to file civil claims seeking to recover maximum financial compensation – regardless of how long ago the crime occurred. California survivors of childhood sexual abuse may seek to recover a damages award through a civil lawsuit with Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) experienced and trusted attorneys today. AB 218 provides numerous unprecedented opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, allowing for the potential to obtain the justice they deserve (whether years or decades after a crime has occurred).

Contact our top-rated team of expert sexual abuse attorneys online or by phone today to pursue justice and secure a financial award for damages.

California AB 218 includes the following clauses:

  • Limited three-year lookback window making all survivors eligible to file claims through December 31, 2022
  • Treble damages clause allowing the courts to award triple damages to survivors in cases where a cover-up can be proven (i.e. a $1 million settlement or verdict would be increased to $3 million)
  • All survivors now eligible to file a claim until their 40th birthday

Led by former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian, DLG is one of the nation’s leading firms representing survivors and providing a unique form of all-encompassing representation.

Our Sex Crimes Division includes a team of professionals (each one offering a unique resource or specialty) hand-picked by Dordulian known as the DLG SAJE Team (Sexual Abuse Justice Experts).

DLG’s SAJE Team is available 24/7 to survivors as a four-tiered support network:

  • Litigation Lead: Sam Dordulian, former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County with over 100 jury trial victories and 25 years of experience

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