A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has been presented to survivors of childhood sexual assault. California state assembly bill 218 has been signed into law, dramatically revolutionizing the statutes of limitations for these deplorable crimes against children and the language used to describe them. Following the example of similar legislation passed recently in New York, the bill opens a three-year “revival window” in California for claims that had expired under the previous law.
Statutes of Limitations Traditionally Favored Abusers Not Victims
Before today, survivors had a woefully inadequate window of time to seek redress for crimes of sexual molestation and rape in their childhood. California law previously disallowed untold number of allegations from being heard due to statutes of limitations and potentially exposed future victims to the predators that would have otherwise been named publicly in the process. Guilt and shame play a huge role in dissuading a child victim in reporting the crime to law enforcement as do a myriad of other factors. Many times, an inability to accurately recall or articulate the abuse to others or a lack of resources at home or in their community prevents the victims from finding or even seeking support.
Most individuals who have had to endure being preyed upon as children become afflicted with the lingering maladies of trauma as they grow into adulthood. A far higher predisposition to mental health and substance abuse issues often plague survivors of childhood sexual assault and it is typically decades into adulthood before they can come forward publicly with their tragic stories, let alone seek justice for the harm done unto them.
Survivors Now Afforded Opportunity for Justice, Compensation and Healing
Before this landmark legislation was first introduced to the California state legislature by champion of working class people, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, survivors of sexual violence in their childhood were permitted until only age 26 to seek damages for these heinous crimes and individuals who discovered the abuse done to them much later in life were only given a three-year window to file lawsuits against individuals that committed or institutions that allowed or even concealed evidence of childhood sexual assault.
After the signing of California State Assembly Bill 218 by Governor Gavin Newsome, survivors will now have until age 40 to file suit against those responsible for their trauma and a new window of 5 years is now afforded to older survivors who are just beginning to discover the ramifications of the violence perpetrated against them in their youth.
After serving for decades as an advocate for hundreds of survivors of sexual assault I can attest that survivors of these horrific crimes deserve compensation for their mental trauma and spiritual wounds and above all are ethically entitled to see their tormentors face justice for their depravity. Validation of the atrocity done unto them through civil litigation is an essential element in healing the soul of the survivor of childhood sexual assault.