By: Ashley Hadler, Attorney
For survivors of childhood sexual abuse, it may take decades to begin processing what has happened to them. The unique struggles and obstacles faced by survivors of childhood sexual abuse can have a negative effect on their ability to pursue a civil lawsuit. This is because the survivor may not recall what occurred or connect their abuse to the harms they have suffered until much later. By the time the survivor makes that connection, the time frame for them to file a civil lawsuit may have lapsed. The legal term for the deadline to file a lawsuit is the “statute of limitation.” Statutes of limitation are laws passed by state legislatures that place time limits on how long a person has to file a lawsuit in court.
Concerns about whether a statute of limitation has expired frequently come into play in childhood sexual abuse cases. As an example, many survivors of childhood sexual abuse by a volunteer of the Boy Scouts of America organization have come forward. The Boy Scouts organization currently faces hundreds of accusers in multiple lawsuits across the country. The survivors filing lawsuits are from all walks of life and the age range for these survivors varies greatly. Older survivors will have to show that their case fits within their state’s statute of limitations in order to be successful in pursuing their claim.
Some states are changing the statute of limitations to offer more access to justice for sexual abuse survivors
States across the nation are beginning to recognize this obstacle to justice and are taking a closer look at, and changing, their statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases. Delaware and New York have repealed requirements altogether, meaning that survivors of any age can seek damages in a civil lawsuit. Other states are considering legislation that would either eliminate limitations or expand them to allow more survivors to come forward. This process is referred to as statute of limitations reform.
Under current Indiana law, survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a limited amount of time to file a civil case against their abuser. The Indiana General Assembly is currently studying how statutes of limitations for civil lawsuits uniquely affect survivors of childhood sexual abuse. If the proposed changes to the statute of limitations law are adopted it would open a window of time to allow Indiana survivors of sexual abuse, whose statutes are currently expired, the opportunity to file a claim. Expanding the statute of limitations would allow more survivors to receive compensation for costs associated with treatment and rebuilding their lives. It would also hold perpetrators and organizations who enabled the abuse accountable for their actions and protect future victims.
States expanding or abandoning limitations on civil lawsuits have led the Boy Scouts of America to consider filing bankruptcy due to the large number of pending and potential claims against them. While the Boy Scouts have not officially filed for bankruptcy, they are exploring that option. Other organizations whose policies and actions allowed sexual abuse to occur, like USA Gymnastics, have used bankruptcy as a strategy to limit their losses and protect their assets.
Talk to an attorney for free to find out if you have a case
Statutes of limitations are always a concern in these types of cases, and the looming possibility of bankruptcy proceedings makes it even more necessary to talk with an attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and interests. If you or a loved one is the victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a Boy Scout troop leader or volunteer, our sexual abuse attorneys will stand with you throughout the civil litigation process. Please contact us for a free and private consultation on your case today.