STATES NEED TO EXTEND CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS
SAN DIEGO (MMD Newswire) April 10, 2013 -- Fourteen states including New York, California and Pennsylvania are considering extending the time period within which a victim of childhood sexual abuse can sue those legally responsible for the insidious and latent injuries that will almost certainly occur but not become apparent until well into adulthood. A multitude of studies, surveys and published data reveal that child sex abuse victims, more often than not, delay reporting, if at all, this heinous crime until well into adulthood. There are a variety of reasons for this phenomenon, including threats, shame, self-blame, lack of trust, and fear. In addition, the very nature of the injuries suffered often interferes with the victims functioning, and understanding of the harm done precluding enough awareness to take action.
According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18. Approximately three quarters of those victims will be abused by someone they are acquainted with, including a family member, teacher, coach, religious leader and others similarly situated. Unfortunately, most victims delay reporting of their abuse, if ever, until they are well into adulthood.
In most cases, by the time a victim either understands that what was done to him or her was criminal, or musters the courage to report the matter to law enforcement, the criminal statute of limitations has expired and no criminal action can be taken against the perpetrator. States cannot extend criminal statutes of limitations retroactively without violating the Ex Post Facto provisions of the U. S. Constitution. For this reason, it is critically important for state legislators to extend their civil statutes of limitations, which, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, may be amended and extended without running afoul of the Constitution. By extending the civil statute of limitations, and reviving the rights of older victims whose claims are currently time barred to pursue a civil lawsuit, the legislators will be appropriately responding to the reality of the nature of the harm done to children by sexual abuse. Today, the laws tend to favor perpetrators, and those who have protected them and defrauded the public. This has allowed criminals and their sponsors to walk away scot free while shifting the cost burden to victims, and state taxpayers.
"It's time for state legislators to act to protect our children from the ravages of child sexual abuse and to send a strong message to child predators and their protectors that time is not on their side"said Irwin Zalkin, an attorney who has represented hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual abuse.