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Both the House and Senate in the state of Kentucky have proposed legislation that would significantly revise the current laws governing the civil prosecution of childhood sexual abuse.  Kentucky had been a state with restrictive statutes of limitations (SOL) prior to the proposed legislation.

Currently, Kentucky’s civil SOL for child sex abuse claims in Kentucky is age 28 for claims against all defendants, with 10-year discovery and criminal conviction rules.  There is also a revival law in effect which revives claims barred as of March 23, 2021 if brought within 5 years of the date the SOL expired.

In 2002, Kentucky’s civil SOL for claims against individuals and entities was age 19, and for claims against perpetrators it was age 23 (age of majority, 18, plus 5 years). In 2007, child trafficking claims involving commercial sexual exploitation joined the list of offenses with a 5-year SOL against perpetrators. In 2017, it extended the civil SOL against perpetrators to the later of age 28 (age of majority, 18, plus 10 years) or 10 years after conviction of the defendant for child sex abuse or assault. The SOL is tolled, which is to say the clock stops running, when the perpetrator is out of state, conceals himself or obstructs the case.  In 2021, Kentucky clarified that the 2017 civil extension to age 28 (age of majority, 18, plus 10 years) or 10 years after conviction of the perpetrator is also applicable to claims against other individuals and entities and applies retroactively.

In 1993, Kentucky recognized a common law discovery rule — tolling the 1-year SOL — though courts have been reluctant to apply it in child sex abuse cases. In 2002, Kentucky adopted a statutory discovery rule, which gave victims “five (5) years from the date the victim knew, or should have known, of the act” to file a lawsuit. In 2017, the discovery rule was extended to 10 years. While the discovery statute appears to help victims with repressed memories of abuse, it has not been interpreted by courts. Also, most courts interpret the discovery statute as only applying to actions against perpetrators, though the Kentucky Supreme Court has yet to weigh in.   In 2021, Kentucky clarified that the 2017 10-year discovery rule is also applicable to claims against other individuals and entities and applies retroactively.

In 2021, Kentucky revived claims for child sex abuse time-barred as of March 23, 2021 if they are brought within 5-year of when the SOL expired.

The proposed legislation would eliminate the civil SOL for child sexual assault or abuse. (SB 153 & HB 464) (SB 153 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 17, 2022).  If you live in Kentucky and are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, call your state representatives in the House and Senate and urge them to support these bills.  This is an important moment in the history of the Bluegrass state and the passage of these initiatives would be an important victory for justice and healing for those who’ve suffered childhood sexual abuse.

The Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis

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