The release earlier this month of over 1,200 confidential files on suspected child sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America has shed light on an important legal issue that impacts the safety of children—the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations for cases of past sexual abuse varies from state to state. As a recent LA Times article points out, this means that where a victim lives can play a major role in their ability to bring their case in front of a jury.
When I represent adult victims of childhood sexual abuse, the statute of limitations issue comes up a lot. I deal with it daily in cases across the country, and while some arguments can successfully be made against applying normal time limits to certain cases, it is always more difficult to seek justice in a state with a strict statute.
This is especially troubling in cases against institutions that have been accused of covering up sexual abuse over the span of decades, like the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church.
To allow victims to sue organizations that failed to protect them from known molesters, Hawaii, Delaware, and California adopted “window legislation”, which lifts the statute of limitations for a set period of time. Attempts by New York and New Jersey to loosen statutes of limitation for child sex abuse were stalled this year.
Unfortunately, until some states are able to reform their statutes, many victims will be denied justice and predators will remain unexposed.
The Boy Scouts’ perversion files are another reminder that for kids to be safe, the people and institutions that protect predators must be held accountable.