Most people have heard of a statute of limitations, where after a certain period of time, legal action can no longer be taken. This is because as time goes on, evidence becomes stale, a witness’s memory fades, and sometimes documents get lost. While the law provides exceptions for some crimes, sadly, in California, a strict statute of limitations still exists for survivors of childhood sexual assault.
Civil Lawsuits for Sex Abuse
Civil lawsuits have similar limitations. Adult sexual abuse survivors must file suit within three years of reasonably discovering the act of assault, and survivors of childhood abuse have up to eight years from the time they turn 18 to file a suit. The #MeToo movement has empowered many sexual assault victims to stand up for themselves, but often it is too late to pursue legal action.
For victims of childhood sexual assault who want to pursue legal action in California, this message is troubling, as victims can suffer in silence for years and abusers may not be held liable for their crimes.
Proposed Changes Under AB-218
In January 2019, Representative Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) re-introduced AB 218, a bill that would expand the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual assault by increasing the age that victims can file a lawsuit from 26 to 40.
Many victims do not realize they were assaulted until years later, and for those afraid to pursue claims against their abuser as a young adult, this change offers hope. If the law passes, survivors would also have a five-year discovery period of abuse, instead of a three-year window.
Other changes include an additional three-year timeline to revisit past claims, which may have expired under the statute of limitations, and harsher punishments for abusers who attempted to cover up past assaults. These abusers could be subjected to “treble damages,” which means they would have to pay up to three times the damages their victim actually suffered.
Empowering Victims of Childhood Sexual Assault
While AB 218 would expand the deadlines for pursuing legal rights against abusers, that does not mean you should wait to take action. The laws surrounding sexual assault are complex and certain exceptions may apply to your case.
For years, the lawyers at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP have been helping childhood sexual assault victims achieve justice. We can help you understand your rights. Contact us at 310-474-1582 for a free consultation.