California Legislature May Expand Rights of Child Sex Abuse Victims

Digital Journal
September 5, 2013

A bill currently pending before the California Legislature would open up one-year window for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring lawsuits.

September 05, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Childhood sexual abuse is one of the worst things a human being can be forced to endure. In addition to the immediate physical trauma, child sex abuse often inflicts emotional damage that can last well into adulthood. In too many cases, victims never fully recover from the horrors to which they have been subjected.

In California, victims of child sexual abuse have the right to sue their abusers and, in some cases, the institutions that enabled the abuse. However, many children are so frightened by the prospect of confronting their abusers that they do not tell anyone about the abuse until many years after it occurred. Others may repress memories of the abuse, only to have them reappear later in life. Unfortunately, this delayed reporting can sometimes prevent victims from being able to take legal action.

Under current California law, sexual abuse victims who are adults over the age of 26 are often barred from bringing suit over childhood sexual abuse.

In 2003, the California Legislature opened up a special one-year window to allow abuse victims whose claims have been barred by the statute of limitations to seek compensatory damages. A bill currently pending before the Legislature would open up another similar one-year window.

Terms of the legislation

Under the terms of the legislation, previously time-barred claims will be allowed so long as the plaintiff either turned age 26 before January 1, 2003 or discovered the source of his or her injury on or after January 1, 2004. In essence, the legislation is intended to restore the ability to sue for a subset of abuse victims who could not bring claims during the initial one-year window.

If the legislation becomes law, the new one-year window will begin on January 1, 2014.

The bill is being hailed by victims' advocates as a major step forward for holding abusers accountable. Some groups, however, are opposing the legislation, arguing that it unfairly exposes them to liability. One of the most vocal opponents has been the Catholic Church. The Church did not contest the 2003 window, but it has now changed its approach in the wake of numerous lawsuits claiming sexual abuse by priests or other members of the clergy.

How an attorney can help

If you or your child has been the victim of sexual abuse, it is important to understand that the law is on your side. An attorney who is experienced in handling claims on behalf of sexual abuse victims can review your case and help you understand your legal options.

Article provided by The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP








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