For survivors of childhood sexual assault, the decision to come forward as an adult doesn’t come easy. Many survivors may feel triggered by discussions fueled by the #MeToo movement or stories involving church sexual abuse in the news, for example. If you’ve decided to come forward and pursue a civil lawsuit against an attacker for childhood sexual assault, an experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex legal system.
One of the worst things to hear when considering civil justice for childhood sexual assault is that your time to file a lawsuit has expired. While current law allows some adult survivors to file civil lawsuits years after their abuse, some lawmakers in California believe these limits should be expanded further or eliminated completely. This post will define Assembly Bill 218 (AB-218) and what it could mean for childhood sexual assault survivors in California if passed.
Extending the Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Assault
Under current legislation in California, childhood sexual abuse survivors have eight years after the age of majority to file a civil lawsuit or within three years of the date of discovering that the psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by sexual abuse. In an effort to extend these statutes of limitations, in January 2019, California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced AB-218 which would amend sections of the Code of Civil Procedure and the Government Code relating to childhood sexual abuse.
If passed, AB-218 would expand the definition of childhood sexual abuse to instead be referred to as “childhood sexual assault.” The bill would increase the time limit for pursuing litigation to obtain a recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual assault to 22 years from the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority. It would also extend the rule of delayed discovery to within five years of the date the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by sexual assault.
Upon enactment, the bill would also allow for a window of three years for the revival of past claims that might have expired due to the statute of limitations. Also, in cases where a child becomes a victim of sexual assault as the result of an effort to cover up past assaults, AB-218 would allow a court to award recovery of treble damages against the defendant who engaged in the cover-up.
Due to expiring statutes of limitations, a number of childhood sexual abuse survivors have been unable to pursue compensation for injuries suffered as a result of their abuse. It can take decades for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to come to terms with what happened to them and to come forward. And, according to Assemblywoman Gonzalez, time shouldn’t prevent survivors from obtaining civil justice and compensation for their injuries.
“The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous,” she said. “More and more, we’re hearing about people who were victims years ago, but were not ready to come forward to tell their story until now.” Her hope is that allowing for an expanded window of time to file a civil lawsuit will protect communities from future abuse.
Lawmakers in New Jersey passed a similar bill in May 2019 that extends the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse and allows child victims to sue up until they turn 55 or within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm. The bill also offers a two-year window to victims who were previously barred by the statute of limitation.
Speak With a Childhood Sexual Assault Attorney
If you have any questions about AB-218 or about your legal options for pursuing justice in a childhood sexual assault case, contact the experienced San Francisco attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn.
If you are an adult victim or the parent of a victimized child, the aftermath of childhood sexual assault may take you through the full gamut of emotions—but you don’t have to go through it alone. An experienced legal representative can act as your advocate, providing counsel and empowering control over the course of the proceedings.
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