The statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse defines the amount of time that a victim can file a lawsuit against a school, daycare center, church, camp, or an organization that fails to protect you. It also establishes the amount of time that you have to bring criminal charges against the person who abused you.
In California, the sexual abuse law firm of Corsiglia McMahon & Allard worked with State Senator Jim Beall to ensure that there are no time limits to bring predators to justice. Senate Bill 813 is now the law and it provides that these crimes have no prosecution time limits:
- molestation of a child under the age of 14 involving “substantial sexual conduct;”
- molestation of a child under the age of 14 by use of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person;
- continuous sexual abuse of a child under the age of 14
California Statute of Limitations for Civil Childhood Sex Abuse Victims
On the civil side, efforts to change the law by Corsiglia McMahon & Allard are blocked by Governor Jerry Brown. Currently, the law says that a childhood sexual abuse victim has until the age of 26 to file a lawsuit. Our child molestation legal team is concerned about the arbitrary time limit as it gives schools, daycare centers, churches, camps, and organizations that fail to protect children an incentive to cover up the crime until the time limits have expired to avoid responsibility.
Established medical literature establishes that one of the primary defense mechanisms employed by victims is memory repression. Plainly stated, to cope with the sex abuse, victims dissociate from the crime and repress memories so that it takes decades for them to surface.
An Explanation of Sex Abuse Repressed Memory
Imagine that you have a basketball which symbolizes a horrible memory that you are holding underwater. You are going to be able to keep that ball underwater for a long time. But like our brain, the muscles in your arms will not be able to hold down that ball forever. And eventually you will have to face and deal with it. The same thing happens with sex abuse victims.
Our legal team of child molestation attorneys cannot even begin to count how many victims with whom we have spoken with that convey that, in their 40’s and 50’s, little pieces of memories come at them bit by bit as the basketball is starting to emerge from the water. Eventually, like a jigsaw puzzle, they put together these pieces until they come to the realization that, “Oh my God, I was sexually abused by my coach!”. We hear this virtually on a daily basis with our office.
Unfortunately, Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed two separate bills that would have given childhood sexual abuse victims additional time to sue.
In the first veto message, Brown claimed that the bill was “discriminatory” because it focused on only the public sector. So, the following year, the language was changed so that law applied to both private and public sectors. This time, ignoring a wealth of medical literature, Brown said that he did not see a “compelling reason” to change the law.
Our law firm is not giving up the fight to change the law. We hope that our next Governor will be more open-minded on the issue.
New York Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sex Abuse Victims
In New York state, the laws are even more archaic. Child sex abuse victims have until the age of 21 to file a civil lawsuit against a third party, such as a school or church. The law is one of the shortest statutes of limitations in the United States.
The effort to reform the statute of limitations in New York is blocked by two state Senate leaders. Senators John Flanigan and John DeFrancisco both refuse to allow a vote on the reform measures. In the meantime, our clients like Kevin Braney continue to suffer the consequences.
In a case found credible by the Vatican, Braney was repeatedly raped by Monsignor Charles Eckermann. The rape took place in a Syracuse church basement where as a young teenager he worked as an altar boy. Worse, church officials knew of Eckermann's sexual misconduct and allowed him to have access to children. To date, the diocese refuses to compensate Braney for the harm caused.
Arbitrary time limits are proving to work against child sexual abuse victims and to protect predators. The law also protects the organizations which enable their behavior.