The Importance of Legal Look-Back Windows

Sep 8, 2020 | Sexual Abuse

In the ongoing fight for justice on behalf of victims of childhood sexual abuse, few measures have been as impactful as laws that temporarily lift the civil statutes of limitation. Sex abuse is often so traumatic for children that they may not be able to talk about it for years or decades after reaching adulthood. By the time they are ready to confront their abusers or the organizations that protected abusers, the statutes of limitation have long expired.

In recent years, states around the country have been implementing “look-back windows,” during which victims could file lawsuits, regardless of how old the allegations were. Recently, the governor of New York extended the state’s look-back window under the Child Victims Act by one additional year. Since then, numerous allegations have been made public, including a rare lawsuit brought against the Girl Scouts of the USA.

The victim joined the Girl Scouts in the mid-1980s when she was 11 years old. Her troop meetings were held at a local church. She says that her troop leader’s husband would regularly sexually abuse her in a basement bathroom of that church. According to the victim’s attorneys, the abuse did not stop even after the abuser’s wife (the troop leader) was made aware of it.

The victim wasn’t able to tell her mother what happened until she was around 18 years old. By the time she reported the abuse, the statute of limitations had expired. She was recently encouraged by her counselor to file a lawsuit now under the Child Victims Act.

There are many who believe that statutes of limitation should be abolished for sex crimes against children, because there are simply too many barriers preventing victims from reporting their abusers within the relatively short window of time that SOLs last. Moreover, it arguably widens the power imbalance between abusers and victims. The abuse that victims suffer continues to haunt them for a lifetime – yet abusers only need to worry about their own fates for a few years, at most.

Until or unless statutes of limitation are abolished for child sex crimes, the next best option is these look-back windows. If you or a loved one suffered sexual abuse as a child and feel ready to discuss it, please contact our firm to speak with one of our experienced and compassionate attorneys. You may have more legal options than you realize.