In a recent 2019 summary of changes in statutes of limitation for child sex abuse, written by CHILDUSA, 41 states had either changed their statutes of limitations or had bills pending to do so. In the past two years 15 states have extended or suspended statute of limitations to allow child sex abuse claims stretching back decades, unleashing potentially thousands of new lawsuits against the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.
More importantly “lookback windows” have been established by eight states and the District of Columbia. These “windows” allow victims of sexual abuse to sue no matter how long ago the alleged abuse took place. Victims can file civil suits against both their alleged abusers such as priests and the church or other institutions where they worked.
These lookback windows in New York, New Jersey, California, Arizona, Montana, Hawaii, Vermont, North Carolina, and Washington D.C. have allowed thousands of victims of sexual abuse by clergy to finally file lawsuits and seek justice that had previously been denied.
Statutes of limitation have often been the biggest roadblocks for victims of sexual abuse by clergy seeking justice. Most childhood victims of sexual abuse suffer trauma that causes them to delay disclosure of their abuse until they are older. According to CHILDUSA, statistically, 1/3 of the victims of child sex abuse disclose as children and another 1/3 never disclose. Studies show that the average age to disclose is 52, with the median age of 48. Statutes of limitation effectively prevent victims from obtaining justice and from naming their perpetrators publicly for fear of retaliation.
At Saunders & Walker we have long advocated for statutes of limitations to be lengthened or lifted all together in cases of child sex abuse. It is necessary to allow for the unique circumstances that exist in abuse cases, and especially those involving clergy. In almost every case children are reluctant or unable to talk about pedophile priests or face their accusers. There are significant and unique barriers that prevent children from reporting what they intuitively know is inappropriate behavior. Fear of the accusing their abuser, the stigma of being abused, and a reluctance to confront the church often keep sexual abuse from being reported. Many victims of pedophile priests are unable to talk about abuse or face their accusers until they are well into adulthood, putting the crime beyond the reach of the law.
If a priest or another member of a church has sexually abused you, or anybody you know, please contact Saunders & Walker at 1-800-748-7115 to discuss your legal options. All conversations will be kept strictly confidential.
Admitted to practice law in all federal multidistrict litigation courts, the California State Bar and the Florida Bar. His philosophy is to provide aggressive, quality representations and seek fair compensation for individuals and their families who have suffered injury, death, or sexual abuse.