Jul 7, 2021
In 2020, California Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) went into effect, offering a new chance at justice that was long overdue for thousands of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Under AB 218, any survivor of childhood sexual abuse is eligible to file a civil lawsuit, regardless of the nature of the crime or how long ago it occurred. AB 218 is considered landmark legislation, offering an unprecedented chance for survivors to recover financial compensation for the harm and trauma endured through childhood sexual abuse.
Perhaps the most well-known aspect of AB 218 is the three-year “lookback window” clause. Under AB 218’s lookback window, the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse crimes is effectively tolled (paused) through the end of 2022. That means every survivor of childhood sexual abuse in California has the opportunity to file a civil claim – whether the incident occurred five days or five decades ago.
Although the lookback window is only temporary – expiring on January 1, 2023 – it is quite significant, representing an opportunity that had previously never been afforded to survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Since AB 218’s passage, many other states have followed California’s lead and enacted laws that allow childhood sexual abuse survivors to file civil claims that were otherwise barred by the statute of limitations. These claims are entirely separate from any criminal charges and represent an opportunity for survivors to obtain a semblance of justice on their own term terms. Furthermore, many states have enacted specific “revival window” clauses within their legislation – similar to California’s three-year “lookback window.”
Below we’ll examine these revival windows state-by-state and discuss how temporarily or permanently suspending the statute of limitations is helping countless survivors of childhood sexual abuse obtain the justice they deserve.
‘Statute of limitations’ is a term for the law establishing the maximum amount of time that parties involved in a dispute have to initiate legal proceedings (from the date of an alleged offense). Essentially, a statute of limitations is a deadline that an individual or entity has to file a lawsuit.
Each statute of limitations can vary depending on the type of offense and whether the party seeking to file a lawsuit is pursuing a criminal or civil complaint. For example, the criminal statute of limitations for California adult rape cases committed after January 1, 2017 was eliminated, allowing authorities to prosecute all offenders indefinitely, regardless of how long ago the crime may have occurred. But a civil statute of limitations of 10 years for rape cases still exists in the Golden State.
Revival windows represent a period of time where the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse cases is removed. For this blog, we’ll focus on the revival windows impacting the civil statutes of limitations in varying states (although legislation on criminal statutes of limitations have also been passed).
Some states, such as California, have enacted temporary revival windows on civil claims. Others, such as Vermont, have established permanent revival windows, effectively allowing any survivor to come forward at any time and file a claim.
While revival windows on criminal statutes of limitations primarily impact state prosecutors (as they will ultimately determine whether or not to file charges), revival windows for civil claims primarily affect the survivors themselves – giving each and every one an opportunity to pursue justice through a lawsuit that seeks to recover financial compensation.
The following states have passed legislation on their respective statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse civil claims:
Let’s review the implications for each revival window state-by-state.
– California: AB 218, which we’ve covered extensively in previous blogs, provides multiple legal options for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. In addition to the temporary three-year lookback window option granted to all survivors, AB 218:
– Vermont: As of July 1, 2019, Vermont’s new laws not only eliminated the civil statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, but also revived all claims that were previously expired without limitation. In other words, any Vermont survivor of childhood sexual abuse is officially eligible to file a civil lawsuit seeking financial compensation – regardless of how long ago the crime occurred. The bill first passed Vermont’s House in March 2019, and was then unanimously passed in the Senate in May 2019.
– New Jersey: The state currently has a two-year revival window in place for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. However, while any survivor is eligible to file a claim, the window closes on November 30, 2021. Given the impending deadline – which will effectively bar any future claims from being submitted – New Jersey survivors are strongly urged to contact an experienced sexual abuse attorney as soon as possible. This is a limited opportunity at justice that can provide survivors with a new beginning, but once the deadline passes they will be left without legal recourse.
– North Carolina: The state opened a two-year revival window, allowing previously expired child sex abuse claims to be filed against perpetrators – individuals and entities – until December 31, 2021. Additionally, North Carolina Senate Bill 199 (SB 199), also known as the Sexual Assault Fast Reporting and Enforcement Act (or the SAFE Act), extended the civil statute of limitations to age 28 and added a two-year extension from criminal conviction of a perpetrator for a related felony sexual offense. Claims of child sex abuse stemming from criminal convictions have been excluded from the 10-year statute of repose. Additionally, North Carolina extended the civil statute of limitations for human trafficking, which includes sexual servitude of a minor, to age 28 (age of majority – 18 – plus 10 years).
– Arkansas: The state’s two-year revival window is set to begin on February 1, 2022. Arkansas’ legislation, known as the “Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act,” will be in effect through January 31, 2024. During this time, survivors of childhood sexual abuse are eligible to file claims against perpetrators and responsible institutions (like the Catholic Church or Boy Scouts of America), regardless of whether or not their statute of limitations has expired.
– Louisiana: The state is set to open a three-year revival window beginning August 1, 2021. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse may file a claim until the window’s deadline date of August 1, 2024. Known as HB 492, the legislation eliminates the civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse claims. Although institutions that have been notoriously linked to childhood sexual abuse – such as the Catholic Church – did not object to the three-year revival window, insurance companies throughout the state have reportedly said they will challenge the constitutionality of the revival statute.
– Maine: As the latest state to enact legislation impacting survivors of childhood sexual abuse, Maine recently opened a permanent revival window for all expired claims. On June 21, 2021, Governor Janet Mills signed LD 589 into law. The legislation, entitled “An Act To Provide Access to Justice for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse,” provides every survivor of childhood sexual abuse with the option to file a civil lawsuit seeking financial damages – at any time and on their own terms.
– Colorado: The state had been considering legislation since California announced the landmark passage of AB 218 back in 2019. Local publication, Colorado Politics, spoke with DLG’s founder and president, Sam Dordulian, that year to get the perspective of a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District attorney. At the time, only one in five Colorado politicians supported extending the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse.
Colorado’s SB 73 legislation, which was signed into law on April 15, 2021, eliminates the civil statute of limitations for sexual assault of minors and adults. The measure officially takes effect on January 1, 2022. However, the revival window clause – which would have allowed survivors of past abuse to file a claim – did not make it into the bill, despite many politicians pushing for its inclusion.
As the Denver Post reported, a companion bill, SB21-088, was introduced that would allow people to sue institutions or youth groups for past sexual abuse suffered by people connected to the institutions. The measure is still making its way through the legislature, however, and waiting on its second Senate committee hearing.
A number of states may soon have legislation that will impact survivors of childhood sexual abuse and open various avenues for obtaining justice in civil court. One such state is Pennsylvania.
– Pennsylvania: A resolution known as House Bill 14 (HB 14) has been put forth proposing an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The amendment would add a two-year revival window for victims of child sex abuse and explicitly lift sovereign immunity for actions against the government.
Although revival windows have yet to be established throughout much of the country, some states without new legislation, such as Illinois, still offer options for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. As DLG’s Chicago-based Of Counsel, Martin Gould, confirms, strong case law unique to Illinois provides experienced attorneys with a foundation to, in many cases, obtain justice on behalf of survivors.
“Unfortunately, survivors are often under the misconception that because Illinois doesn’t have an official revival window, it’s impossible to successfully file a claim. But in many scenarios, even if the statute of limitations has expired, we’re able to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse get justice long after the crime occurred,” Gould says.
If you want to pursue justice through a child sex abuse claim, contacting an experienced and qualified sex crime attorney to discuss your legal options is recommended. A skilled and dedicated sexual abuse lawyer will be able to 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.
Revival windows constitute an opportunity for survivors of childhood sexual abuse – which, in many cases, can result in devastating and lifelong trauma – to obtain the justice they deserve.
Studies indicate that just one-third of childhood sexual abuse survivors disclose as children (while one-third never disclose). In fact, the average age to disclose childhood sexual abuse is reportedly 52. When survivors eventually do come forward, the statute of limitations renders the vast majority unable to obtain justice against their abusers.
Simply put, revival windows are an opportunity to change these tragic statistics.
While revival windows represent important legislation that can offer survivors of childhood sexual abuse an invaluable opportunity at justice, which attorney a survivor chooses to handle their claim is also very important. Survivors should be selective when considering potential sexual abuse attorneys, conducting thorough background research and due diligence to ensure their case is only in the very best hands.
Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is a top-rated firm with proven results and consistent client testimonials demonstrating our dedication to each and every client. Founded by former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian, DLG offers survivors a unique type of representation that goes well beyond mere legal expertise.
Our experience is unparalleled, with Dordulian having successfully obtained over 100 jury trial victories as a Deputy D.A. While working as a sex crimes prosecutor, Dordulian secured life sentences against some of the most dangerous sexual predators in our community. Today, he fights for sexual abuse survivors, helping to ensure they receive the maximum financial compensation they deserve.
With DLG, clients have access to the absolute best legal expertise – a team with a 98% success record and over $100,000,000 recovered in settlements and verdicts. But we also believe survivors should have access to additional resources and support throughout the legal process.
DLG’s unique and all-encompassing form of legal representation is something you can’t find at just any firm. It’s also an indication of the personalized attention, commitment, and discretion we offer each and every survivor who trusts us with the important responsibility of handling their childhood sexual abuse claim.
If you’re ready to come forward and secure the justice you deserve for a childhood sexual abuse incident, we’re here to listen, to believe, and to help you file a claim that results in a maximum financial damages award. Contact DLG today online or by phone at 818-322-4056 for a free and confidential consultation.
When pursuing justice in a childhood sexual abuse claim, don’t put the responsibility in the hands of just any unproven firm. Choose the SAJE Team with decades of experience and proven results to give you the peace of mind you deserve.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.