ICSA Today 2020, Vol. 11 No. 2, pg. 16
New Hope for Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse Seeking Justice
1Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to make it easier for victims of past childhood sexual abuse to sue. New York, California, additional states, and Washington DC have opened the door for childhood-sexual-abuse victims to sue by extending statutes of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file their cases even if the sexual abuse happened decades ago. These laws allow survivors of past childhood sexual abuse to seek justice and compensation from their abusers and the individuals or organizations that allowed the sexual abuse to occur. These laws provide a chance for these victims to be empowered and have their voices heard.
If you live in New York or were sexually abused as a child in New York, the governor of New York signed the Child Victims Act, or CVA, into law on February 14, 2019. This law provides that victims of sexual assault whose statute of limitations has passed shall have a 1-year window of time to file a claim for past sexual assault or abuse. The CVA went into effect on August 14, 2019, and the 1-year window of opportunity to file a lawsuit ends on August 13, 2020.
The New York law also allows people who were victimized as minors to seek prosecution against their abusers until age 55 in civil cases, more than doubling the state’s previous time limit of age 23. Additionally, those pursuing a criminal case against their abusers now may do so until age 28.
The media has reported that more than 400 lawsuits were filed in New York State on just the first day of that 1-year window in August of 2019. The number of lawsuits that have poured into California have not yet been tallied. There also are major battles surrounding whether there was insurance coverage for incidents that occurred sometimes decades ago.
If you live in California or you were sexually abused as a child in California, victims of childhood sexual abuse as of January 1, 2020, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred, have a 3-year window of time within which to file a lawsuit for previously time-barred claims against the predator-abuser and anyone, including a business or institution, that covered up for the predator-abuser. In other words, this law permits adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in California to file claims regardless of their current age, and regardless of how long ago the sexual abuse occurred.
This California law also expands the definition of childhood sexual abuse and extends the statute of limitations for filing a claim for childhood sexual abuse up to age 40, or 5 years after the survivor discovers or reasonably should have discovered the psychological injury or illness caused by the childhood sexual abuse.
This California law also permits triple damages against any defendant who engaged in a cover-up of the sexual abuse of a minor. This triple-damages penalty may provide an incentive to settle for defendants who engaged in a cover-up.
This new law is expected to result in an avalanche of lawsuits aimed at institutions, local school districts, foster-care agencies, youth-group organizations, perpetrators, and more. For instance, the sexual abuse of a minor may be actionable if it occurred in a cult, spiritual group, or other high-demand group.
Other States and Washington, DC
New York and California are not the only states that have recently passed laws to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. The following jurisdictions passed laws to make statute-of-limitations reform take effect in 2019: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
The law in every state differs. However, one common denominator is that all these states and Washington, DC have passed these laws to try to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
If you are the victim of childhood sexual abuse that occurred in a cult, spiritual group, high-demand group or an abusive power situation, and you want more information about trying to hold accountable the perpetrator or those who permitted sexual assault, don’t delay. Contact a lawyer who is experienced in sexual abuse and spiritual abuse. For further reading, please see the following websites: https://www.nycbar.org/get-legal-help/article/personal-injury-and-accidents/new-york-child-victims-act/; https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article236209553.html
 The information in this article is not legal advice. You should contact a lawyer for advice regarding your situation.
Carla DiMare, is licensed to practice law in California. Ms. DiMare has represented numerous high-profile clients, and she has also handled disputes and cases for victims who did not have the financial resources to hire a lawyer. She has handled cases involving sexual abuse, personal injury, wrongful death, cults/spiritual groups/high demand groups, the Military and States Secrets Privilege, the First Amendment and defamation, civil-rights violations, elder abuse, the False Claims Act, sexual harassment, retaliation and workplace investigative services, and Title IX abuses in schools and universities. She has written for the Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Daily Journal, and more, and has spoken as a panelist for various community groups. She is a Trustee for the County of San Diego Law Library.