California is giving childhood victims of sexual abuse more time to decide whether to file lawsuits, joining several states in expanding the statute of limitations for victims.The law gives victims of childhood sexual abuse until age 40, or five years from discovery of the abuse, to file civil lawsuits. The previous limit had been 26, or within three years from discovery of the abuse.
Financial compensation will never undo the damage that is done when a child or any victim is sexually abused. However, filing a claim can help prevent and can discourage future occurrences of sexual abuse in our institution by making sure that the institutions that stood by and tolerated or even covered up these activities for so many decades will know that they will be held accountable and that they best never turn a blind eye again to these behaviors in their organizations.
Outrage over the failure of the Catholic church and other respected institutions to protect children from sexual abuse has led many states to revise laws limiting the statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse cases.
In these states, the courts have been flooded with sexual abuse lawsuits filed by adults who were victimized as children, by teachers, coaches, members of the clergy and other trusted individuals. The state of California extended its time limit on child sex abuse cases in 2020, giving survivors of childhood sexual abuse a three-year window to pursue civil claims that would have otherwise been time-barred. Under the former law, adult victims of child sexual abuse could only file claims against their abusers until the age of 26. The new law gives victims until the age of 40 to hold their abusers and the institutions that allowed the abuse to take place accountable for the harm they suffered.
Nearly every state in the U.S. has in some way amended its child sexual abuse laws, either by extending the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases, eliminating the civil statute of limitations altogether, or opening a “lookback window” for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse to pursue claims against their abusers. These new laws are meant to encourage survivors of institutional sex abuse to come forward and report the abuse they suffered at the hands of adults that were entrusted with their care, safety and education. In order to hold a third party (i.e. a church, university, entity or organization) responsible, the claimant must generally show that the organization or institution owed them a duty of care and that the sexual abuse occurred as a result of the institution’s negligence.
Child sexual abuse can occur in any situation where an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. The sexual abuse of children rises to the level of institutional abuse when the institution or organization the sex offender is affiliated with, i.e. the Catholic church or a university, fails to respond appropriately to the allegations of abuse when the victim comes forward. Child predators are able to commit acts of institutional sex abuse by putting themselves in positions or situations where they have unfettered access to their intended victims and can gain their trust while ensuring the confidence of the community where they work. These individuals are often teachers, coaches, members of the clergy, camp counselors or others who are well-liked and well-respected and are routinely entrusted with the oversight of children.
Examples of Institutional Sex Abuse
Institutional sex abuse can be difficult to comprehend and eradicate because it can take survivors many years to process the abuse and report it. This type of abuse occurs behind closed doors and is perpetrated by trusted members of the community in the very environments designed to protect children and enrich their lives. Some notable examples of well-known institutions failing to respond appropriately to reports of child sexual abuse include Penn State in the case of former football coach and convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky, and Michigan State University in the case of Larry Nassar, former MSU professor and physician for the USA Gymnastics national team, and convicted serial rapist and child sex offender.
Numerous Roman Catholic Archdioceses have also been implicated in high-profile child sex abuse cases where priests who took advantage of minors were permitted to continue working with the church and have contact with children. In many of the institutional sex abuse cases in the U.S. that have come to light in recent years, the sex offender’s actions were either ignored, accepted, or actively concealed by the institution in order to protect the institution’s reputation and avoid a scandal. By failing to take the necessary actions to protect the safety of the children in their care, these institutions are allowing the child sex abuse to continue and are putting more children at risk for being victimized by sexual predators.
Reasons to File a Sex Abuse Lawsuit
Research shows that survivors of child sexual abuse often face the following issues as adults:
• Inappropriate sexual behavior
• Suicide attempts
• Illicit drug use
• Marriage and family problems
• Alcohol problems
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Emotional problems
• Behavioral problems
How a Lawsuit Could Help
A child sex abuse lawsuit could help you recover compensation for:
• Emotional distress
• Pain and suffering
• Psychological harm
• Current and future medical care
• Loss of earning capacity
Did you suffer sexual abuse as a minor from a person in a position of power such as a religious leader, coach, teacher or similar person of authority?Find Out More
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