Senate Judiciary Committee recommends bill to remove child sex abuse statute of limitations

Jurist [Pittsburgh PA]

February 11, 2022

By Marie Feyche | U. Pittsburgh School of Law, US

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday recommended that the Senate pass the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act to empower victims of child sex abuse by removing the statute of limitations for federal civil child sex abuse claims, giving survivors unlimited time to file the claims.

There is no statute of limitations under current federal law barring the prosecution of criminal offenses involving child sex abuse 10 years after the offense or when the victim is alive, whichever is later.

There is a statute of limitations for civil offenses involving child sex abuse, and this is an obstacle for survivors. In 2018, Congress extended the statute of limitations for filing civil child sex abuse claims in federal court, allowing the claims to be filed until the survivor is 28 years old or until 10 years after the abuse is discovered.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who co-sponsored the bill with Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, introduced the bill to ensure that victims are not barred by the statute of limitations from seeking justice under the federal civil remedy statute, 18 USC § 2255. Durbin explained that research estimates the average survivor of child sex abuse is 52 years of age when they report the abuse.

Blackburn said: “The statute of limitations for sexual abuse offenses should never prohibit young survivors from getting the justice they deserve. The bipartisan effort to eliminate the civil child sexual abuse statute of limitations is a critical step to guarantee survivors their day in court.”

“Delayed disclosure has historically impacted survivors’ path to the justice that they deserve. We can’t deter children in any way from speaking out against their abusers,” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who supports the bill, stated.