Proposed California Bill Would Eliminate Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse Cases

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California AB 452 Would End Statute of Limitations on Child Sexual Abuse Cases

California AB 452 Would End Statute of Limitations on Child Sexual Abuse Cases

Feb 13, 2023

California is considered one of the most progressive states in the nation in terms of passing laws which further the rights of sexual assault survivors. The Golden State’s landmark 2019 legislation – California Assembly Bill 218 – afforded survivors of childhood sexual abuse a three-year lookback window to file claims for damages. AB 218’s revival window allowed any survivor of childhood sex abuse to file a civil lawsuit against a perpetrator – whether an individual or an institution – regardless of how long ago the crime(s) occurred.

Additionally, California has passed laws addressing:

Moreover, California recently enabled survivors of sexual assault to track the status of DNA rape kits (SANE exams) online through a forensic tracking website. Under legislation known as California State Bill 215 (SB 215), the state’s rape kit tracking portal was initiated in response to “widespread complaints about wait times due to backlogged cases at local police departments,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Earlier this month, a new California bill was introduced which would eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse civil lawsuits.

What is California Assembly Bill 452 (AB 452)?

With California AB 218’s three-year lookback window officially closing at the end of 2022, survivors of childhood sexual abuse must now file claims for damages before the age of 40. AB 218 allowed any survivor of child sex abuse to sue for financial compensation – regardless of age or how long ago the crime occurred – through the limited revival window.

But some of California’s elected officials are taking action to ensure that the statute of limitations on childhood sex abuse claims is eliminated permanently.

Assemblymember Dawn Addis from Morro Bay and Senator Nancy Skinner of Berkeley introduced AB 452 last week. If passed, AB 452 would ensure that:

…if you were sexually abused as a child, it won’t matter how much time has passed if you want to try to get justice in court,” according to a report from Fox KTVU.

AB 452 mirrors federal legislation passed last year entitled the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act. Also known as Federal Bill S. 3103, the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022 officially removes the federal statute of limitations to file a civil action for minor victims of:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Human trafficking
  • Forced labor
  • Child pornography

As Clinical Psychologist Dr. Cathia Walters told Fox KTVU, it can take decades for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to process their trauma. Furthermore, coming forward to report such a crime can take even longer.

“The fear of not being believed, the fear of being blamed, right? The fear that somehow, my family is going to be torn apart because of this,” Walters said to KTVU.

By not having any time limit on filing child sex abuse claims, survivors are afforded the option to pursue justice when they feel ready.

So, with those fears comes the denial. I’m not going to say anything because one if I say something, not only will I be blamed but how am I going to be viewed? Right? Am I going to be seen as a willing participant in this situation here?” Walters said.

Assemblymember Addis and Senator Skinner released a statement following the introduction of Assembly Bill 452 which noted how a statute of limitations can often impede justice in a child sex abuse case:

“It’s unacceptable and cruel that many California victims of childhood sex abuse are unable to hold their abusers accountable because our law now says their time has run out. AB 452 will right this wrong by eliminating the deadline for taking civil action against child abusers and those who aided or allowed the abuse to happen or covered it up.”

“I am immensely proud to author the Justice for Survivors Act with my colleague, Senator Skinner,” Addis said. “By eliminating the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, we are helping survivors come forward to seek the critical closure they need. It’s time to end this arbitrary and cruel time limit on justice.”

There are good reasons why survivors of sexual assault and abuse may take years or decades to confront their experience. This delay can be due to the complex ways in which we process trauma, and for self-protection, suppress painful memories. These incidents of abuse are often accompanied by threats of harm, feelings of shame, or the very legitimate fear of not being believed,” Skinner added.

California AB 452 now awaits referral to its first policy committee.

What is the Average Age for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse?

Legislation such as California AB 218 and AB 452 are intended to provide survivors of child sexual abuse with their right to justice. Child sex abuse impacts each survivor uniquely, and while it may take some victims decades to report past crimes, others often never come forward.

A study conducted by the German government found that the overall mean age at the time of reporting child sexual abuse was 52.2 years.

The German study sought to compare the nature of the child sex abuse experienced at three types of institutions:

  • Roman Catholic
  • Protestant
  • Non-religiously affiliated

After establishing a government hotline, the data indicated:

Victims who had been in religiously affiliated institutions were significantly older than those who had been in secular institutions. Almost half the victims had been abused physically as well as sexually, and most victims reported that the abuse had occurred repeatedly and that the assaults had been committed by males. Patterns of abuse (time, type, and extent), and the gender of the offenders did not differ between the three groups. Intercourse was more frequently reported by older victims and by females. Similar percentages of victims in all groups reported current psychiatric diagnoses (depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD). Significantly more victims from Protestant institutions reported having current psychosocial problems.”

Additionally, statistics on delayed reporting of childhood sexual abuse (provided by Child USA) include:

  • Research indicates that lengthy delays in disclosure and even nondisclosure are common.
  • Disclosure is almost always an ongoing process.
  • Studies indicate that 82.9% of child sex abuse survivors did not report any of the rapes they experienced during childhood.
  • 60%-70% of adults do not recall ever disclosing their abuse as children.
  • 55-69% of adults indicated that they never told anyone about the sexual abuse during childhood.
  • Disclosure rates are between 31% and 41% for disclosure during childhood and between 58% and 72% for lifetime disclosure.

As the data continues to confirm that the trauma from childhood sexual abuse can take years or even decades to process and eventually report, more and more states are passing legislation similar to California AB 218 and AB 452 – either to open revival windows allowing victims to file civil claims or eliminate the statutes of limitations entirely.

For a list of states that have either enacted or are considering child sexual abuse legislation, please visit our recent blog.

Can I File a California Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

When you’re ready to pursue justice through a civil claim, contact an experienced and qualified child sexual abuse attorney at Dordulian Law Group (DLG) by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM. We offer free and confidential consultations where you can ask questions, discuss your legal options, and receive an estimate for how long it may take to reach a financial settlement.

A DLG SAE Team sexual abuse lawyer will advise you on whether or not pursuing a claim is an option and provide an approximate value for how much your case may be worth in terms of a final settlement or verdict against your abuser.

DLG is led by former sex crimes prosecutor and RAINN National Leadership Council member, Sam Dordulian. As a Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Dordulian secured life sentences against countless sexual predators. Today, he fights for justice on behalf of survivors of childhood sexual abuse in civil court.

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

With over 100 jury trial victories secured and more than $100,000,000.00 in settlements and verdicts recovered on behalf of clients, Dordulian and his SAJE Team offer survivors the very best child sex abuse legal representation in California.

Contact us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM to discuss your case.

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