A look at recent changes in sex abuse laws

Jun 3, 2020 | Sexual Abuse

Victims of sexual abuse may wonder if they have any hope of acquiring justice for the horrific crimes committed against them. Because of the emotional turmoil resulting from sexual abuse, many victims do not come forward until the statute of limitations to sue an abuser has run out. However, recent changes in law have given abuse victims in a number of states more time to seek justice.

Insurance Journal provides a look at some recent changes by 15 states to provide sex abuse victims with more opportunities to sue the person or institution that had abused them. Some of these changes involve extending the statute of limitations, while other changes allow people to file claims of abuse that go back decades in time.

Establishing lookback windows

Lawmakers in eight states and the District of Columbia have put in place “lookback windows.” These are time periods that permit a person who has suffered abuse to litigate an abuser no matter how long ago the abuse had occurred. The length of these windows varies by state, and some have already expired.

However, some states may still have these windows in effect. New Jersey has instituted a two year window beginning December 1, 2019. North Carolina put in place a window starting on January 1, 2020 that will last two years. California instituted a window beginning on the same date but scheduled to last for three years. Meanwhile, Vermont lawmakers have established a permanent window to bring abuse claims.

Lengthening time limits

Lawmakers in seven states have changed their statute of limitations to give abuse victims more time to file civil lawsuits against their abusers. These states have increased the age limits of people to file suits. Connecticut raised its age limit from 19 years old to 33. Texas increased its limit from 33 to 48. Rhode Island has one of the largest increases in age to 53 years old from 21 if the abuse happened from an institution and from 25 for litigating individual abusers.

Results of law changes

According to the Orange County Register, the actions taken in New York to suspend their statute of limitations has resulted in hundreds of civil suits against schools, hospitals, and the Catholic Church, as well as deceased financier Jeffery Epstein. So while it is too early to say how effective these changes in sex abuse laws will be, they have made an impact in one of the most populated states in the country. As time passes, more victims may be able to seek justice and find healing.