If you have suffered in silence as a survivor of childhood sexual assault, the law in California is finally on your side.
The time is NOW for survivors of childhood sexual assault to break their silence and have their voices heard.
The Sexual Abuse Team at Gomez Trial Attorneys is here to help.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a landmark piece of legislation, The California Child Victims Act, Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) into law on October 13, 2019. Under this new law, survivors of childhood sexual assault, regardless of their current age, now have a three-year “window” to file a civil lawsuit to seek justice for the abuse they suffered against perpetrators and the institutions that enabled and protected them, no matter when the abuse occurred. In addition to this lookback window, the law revises the current statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse claims.
Survivors’ rights to obtain justice may be affected if a defendant files for bankruptcy within this time period, so please contact the Sex Abuse Team at Gomez Trial Attorneys right away for a free, confidential consultation to understand your legal rights under this new law.
Three Ways that Assembly Bill 218 Tackles Child Sexual Assault
Specifically, AB 218 tackles child sexual abuse in three ways:
- It opens a three-year “lookback window” for previously time barred claims;
- It extends the civil statute of limitations to age 40; and
- It broadens the definition of “childhood sexual abuse” to “childhood sexual assault.”
The three-year lookback window created by AB 218 opens on January 1, 2020. During this time, survivors of childhood sexual assault can bring civil suits against their perpetrators and the institutions that covered for them, regardless of the current age of the survivor, when the abuse occurred, or if the assault perpetrator is alive or dead.
Under the provisions of AB 218, the Sex Abuse Team at Gomez Trial Attorneys will hold accountable abuse perpetrators and any organization that concealed or enabled the sexual assault of children, no matter when the abuse occurred. These organizations may include:
- Roman Catholic Church
- Jehovah Witnesses
- Baptist, Protestant, Evangelical, or Any Other Church Denomination
- Haredi Orthodox
- Boy Scouts of America
- Girl Scouts of the USA
- Youth Sports Leagues
- Youth Sports Organizations
- Summer Camps/Organizations
- Private and Public Schools
- Charter Schools,
- Armed Forces
- Doctor and Medical Organizations
- University/College and/or
- Any Organization Supervising Children
Assembly Bill 218: A Huge Step Forward for Child Protection and Sexual Assault Survivor Rights
[profileleft][/profileleft]California recently took a critical step forward in the child protection movement. The landmark California Child Victims Act empowers adult survivors of childhood sexual assault with a greater opportunity to seek justice than has been available for almost 16 years in California, by providing more time for survivors to come forward.
AB 218 Provides Hope to Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault
The primary takeaway for adult survivors of child sexual assault is that this new legislation empowers them to confront their abuse by providing more time for them to come forward to file a lawsuit for compensation against their abuse perpetrator, and the institution(s) that concealed or enabled the abuse.
If you or a loved one was sexually assaulted as a child, AB 218 affords a broader pathway to justice, even if the abuse occurred decades ago. Survivors of childhood sexual assault in California may benefit from AB 218’s protections in the following ways:
- Broader Accountability for Abusers and Institutions. AB 218 provides for more accountability against perpetrators of sexual assault, specifically leaders within the Roman Catholic Church (priests, nuns, and others) and the Boy Scouts of America.
- Victims of Childhood Sexual Assault May File Claims Until Age 40 or Within 5 Years of the Discovery of Related Damages. California’s previous law only allowed victims to file claims for abuse they suffered as a child until the age of 26, or within three years of drawing a connection between the abuse and their current psychological injuries. AB 218 extends that limit to age 40, or within five years of the time they draw a connection between sexual assault and their psychological injuries or illness, whichever comes later.
- Broader Definition of “Victim.” AB 218 enables a larger class of victims to file a claim against their perpetrators by revising the terminology in the law from “child sexual abuse” to “child sexual assault.” This change expands the number of applicable potential California Penal Code violations committed against minors.
- ALL Victims Whose Claims Would Have Been Time Barred Have a 3 Year Window to File a Claim. Short statutes of limitation have previously kept the courthouse doors closed to survivors of childhood sexual assault by setting arbitrary deadlines for pressing criminal charges or filing civil lawsuits. Survivors often need decades to come forward, and many are not prepared to report allegations of sexual assault until they are in their 40s or 50s. Historically, this has caused many survivors’ claims to be time-barred, as the statute of limitations to file a claim against an abuser passed years or even decades before. Now, ALL victims of childhood sexual assault in California have three years to file a claim against the abuse perpetrator and any institution that should have stopped the abuse.
Under AB 218, all victims of childhood sexual assault, regardless of their current age, have an opportunity to bring a lawsuit against their abusers and the institutions that covered up the abuse until January 2023.
This new law finally reflects an understanding of the fact that a survivor’s journey toward healing takes time, and their capability to process the abuse, confront it, and expose their abuser does not always fall in line with statutory timelines.
The Reform of California’s Child Protection Laws Is Long Overdue
California Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) is the author of The California Child Victims Act, AB 218. “The idea that someone who is assaulted as a child can actually run out of time to report that abuse is outrageous,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said in a press release. “More and more, we’re hearing about people who were victims years ago but were not ready to come forward to tell their story until now. We shouldn’t be telling victims their time is up when in reality we need them to come forward to protect the community from future abuse.”
The last time a similar “lookback window” was opened for time-barred claims in California was in 2004. For almost 16 years, California’s adult survivors of childhood sexual assault have been unable to seek redress for their abuse through the legal system. Not until the early 1990s did the two most notorious organizations, The Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts, begin to address their child sexual abuse problems. This new California legislation now empowers several decades worth of potential victims who suffered abuse at the hands of these organizations to take legal action.
Joelle Casteix, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse in California successfully sued the Catholic Church in 2002. Ms. Casteix testified as the main witness on behalf of AB 218 in Sacramento. She applauded the signing of AB 218 into law by Governor Newsom and made the following statement through the Zero Abuse Project:
“Child sexual assault is a crime of power that uses sex as a weapon. Predators know that child victims are likely not to report. Predators rely on institutions for access and cover-up. Now, with this three-year civil window, survivors can expose abusers who are still working with children today, as well as the institutions that cover it up. We are sending a loud and clear message—predators and those who protect them are no longer safe in the Golden State…. Now that AB 218 is law, we will learn the true scope of the crimes of abuse and cover-up across the state. Predators will no longer have get out of jail free cards. Survivors will take back the reins, regaining control of their lives. Our children will be protected.”
Harm Resulting From Childhood Sexual Assault Can Last a Lifetime
Childhood sexual assault is a pervasive problem in California and throughout the country. Every nine minutes, a child is sexually assaulted in the United States, and 93 percent of those victims know the perpetrator. Many perpetrators of sexual abuse take advantage of their position of trust, such as family members, teachers, clergy members or coaches. When a child suffers sexual assault at the hands of a trusted person, or person in a position of authority, the resulting harm and damage can follow that child as they grow into adulthood and forever negatively impact their lives. But it is never too late for survivors to start healing from their abuse.
The Sex Abuse Team at Gomez Trial Attorneys can help survivors of childhood sexual assault, who may not realize the damaging impact their abuse has caused until they are old enough to fully understand it.
What Are the Signs of a Sexual Assault Injury?
If you are an adult survivor of childhood sexual assault, your abuse may cause you to experience a range of short- and long-term effects that continue to have deterimental effects on your life:
- Shame, guilt and blame. Survivors often feel guilty about not having been able to stop the abuse, or even feel shameful if they experienced physical pleasure during the course of the abuse. It is important for survivors to understand that it was the perpetrator of the abuse that should be held accountable—and that it is not the survivor’s fault.
- Difficulty with intimate relationships. For many survivors, their first sexual experience was a result of the sexual assault they experienced as a child. As an adult, these survivors may struggle to create meaningful intimate relationships. Survivors can suffer from flashbacks or painful memories during consensual sexual experiences, and may have difficulty setting boundaries necessary to feel safe and secure in their adult relationships.
- Low Self Esteem. Survivors of childhood sexual assault often struggle with low self-esteem as a result of the negative messages they received from their abuser(s), and from having their own personal safety violated or ignored. A survivor’s low self-esteem can permeate into other areas of their life such as relationships, their careers, and both their physical and mental health.
It’s Not Too Late to Heal
The Sex Abuse Team at Gomez Trial Attorneys knows that adult survivors of childhood sexual assault need time to process the devastating harm that they have endured, and to understand its damaging effects on their lives. Childhood sexual assault survivors may realize decades later that the institutions that should have protected them as children failed to do so, or even worse, enabled the abuse to occur. Data indicates that child sexual assault survivors typically do not share the details of their abuse with anyone until they are well into adulthood, if at all. They may have tried to tell an adult and met resistance or felt isolated and as if there was no one they could trust.
There is no set timeline for dealing with sexual assault and recovering from the experience of abuse. In fact, one of the main reasons why survivors finally come forward is that they have their own children and that child reaches the same age that they were when they were assaulted. Often, it is only then that an adult survivor can understand the violation of their abuse or how a trusted institution should have protected them. Now, under the provisions of AB 218, adult survivors can join the child protection movement themselves by ensuring that the abuse that they suffered does not happen to another child.
Civil Legal Remedies Available to Victims of Sexual Assault
In California, victims of sexual assault can seek justice through the civil justice system as well as the criminal justice system. Civil remedies for victims of sexual violence go well beyond monetary compensation. Through a civil case, victims can hold their perpetrators accountable, bring a sense of closure to their own lives, and prevent the potential for future victimization. In addition to criminal charges, victims of sexual assault can pursue justice and monetary compensation through filing a civil claim for damages. Such claims can be filed even in the absence of a related criminal case or police report. Victims, and in certain cases their family members, may be eligible to seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses. Medical treatment is often necessary following a sexual assault. Ongoing psychological treatment or counseling may also be recoverable.
- Lost income. Following a sexual assault, victims are sometimes rendered unable to work and earn a living, either temporarily or permanently. Sexual assault victims have the right to sue for wages lost as a result of their trauma.
- Pain and suffering. The law in California recognizes that experiencing a sexual assault is traumatic and can lead to psychological injury or illness. Sexual assault victims have the right to sue for physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress.
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish an offender that has engaged in intentionally harmful or egregiously negligent behavior. A California court typically considers the offender’s financial state when setting punitive damages to prevent similar behavior in the future.
We Want to Help You
If you are an adult survivor of childhood sexual assault, and have suffered in silence, you are unfortunately not alone. However, the Sex Abuse Team at Gomez Trial Attorneys is here to help you understand your legal options under the law, to seek justice for the pain that you suffered, and to hold accountable the abuser and any organization that protected them.
Gomez Trial Attorneysis a California-based law firm that has been committed to helping survivors of childhood sexual assault for years. We fully supported the passage of Assembly Bill 218 and applaud the efforts of Governor Newsom and Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez for its passage. We have worked with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and understand how difficult it is to take this step. Your identity will remain confidential throughout the entire process.
The Sex Abuse Team at Gomez Trial Attorneysinvites any survivor who believes he or she may be ready to seek accountability through the California legal process to call 619-237-3490 or visit us online to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation with an experienced sex abuse lawyer. Please contact the Sex Abuse Team at Gomez Trial Attorneys today to take a step toward justice and healing.