We are learning more about how we process trauma. We know we often set traumatic events aside as a means of survival; that we may take years or even decades before we can open ourselves to those traumatic memories and attempt to process what happened. We are even making progress in learning the science behind this phenomenon.
Because there is often this time gap between the traumatic event and our ability to process it, it is not uncommon for a large period of time to pass before recognition of wrongdoing or developing the courage to come forward. This can make it difficult for victims to hold their abusers legally accountable as many laws have time limits on when a victim can file a claim.
States throughout the country are taking steps to remove this hurdle and help support these survivors, and California is one of them. Governor Newsom signed AB452, which goes into effect January 1, 2024. Although previous laws have expanded the state’s support for sexual abuse survivors, this goes even further.
What were previous changes to help support survivors of abuse?
In 2019, California lawmakers passed a law that extended the time sexual abuse survivors have to build a legal claim against their abusers from 26 years old to 40 years old to file a claim against their abuser.
The law also allowed for a three-year look-back, from 2020 through 2023. During that time, people could file lawsuits against their abusers regardless of the date of the abuse. Various organizations, like churches and schools, found themselves facing an onslaught of lawsuits. Critics argued these organizations could not afford the cost of litigation while victim advocates note the cost of litigation is an important means of encouraging these organizations remain accountable and take allegations of abuse seriously.
What is the most recent change?
As of January 2024, California will eliminate the statute of limitations for those who file child sexual assault lawsuits. This means that there is no longer a time limitation.
It is important to note that the law is not retroactive and only applies to instances of abuse that occur after its passage. This is likely due in part to the criticism of the previous change noted above, that the cost of potential litigation was too high.
What are my options if I was the victim of child sex abuse?
Those who are the victims of abuse are wise to seek legal counsel to discuss their options. Legal remedies are available depending on various factors, such as the date of the abuse. Allred, Maroko & Goldberg has experienced lawyers specializing in this niche area of law who can review your case and discuss your options. Taking this step is important for two reasons. First, it provides you as the victim the opportunity to hold your abuser accountable for their wrongdoing. Second, it helps work towards the removal of the risk that the wrongdoer will harm others and can also serve as a deterrent, ultimately helping to increase the safety of your community.