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The #MeToo movement has created a platform for survivors to use their voices and hold their perpetrators accountable. As more survivors bravely come forward to share their stories, the need for a change in the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims has become apparent. Healing is a personal process, and as such, there is no fixed timeline for a survivor’s healing journey—it may take weeks, months, or years. Even after survivors have processed their experiences, many still need additional time before they feel comfortable and safe enough to share their stories. “

There are a variety of factors that may affect a survivor’s healing process. According to the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, survivors often experience a wide range of emotions like shock, fear, loss of control, guilt, self-blame, anger, isolation, and anxiety. If the perpetrator was someone the survivor trusted, “it can take years… to identify what happened to them as a violation.” Many survivors experience confusion and self-blame. In a New York Times article, the president of the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) revealed that one of the most common questions asked when calling the national hotline is “Was I raped?” In an article sparked by Christina Blasey Ford’s testimony, James Hopper, a psychologist and teaching associate at Harvard Medical School, James Hopper, said it can take a while for a survivor to process the trauma because “when the brain’s defense circuitry is activated, the prefrontal cortex, which normally directs attention, can be rapidly impaired, affecting what information is recorded in memory.” This leads survivors to have fragmented, foggy recollections of their assaults.

In 2022, the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act was passed, eliminating federal civil statutes of limitations for child sex abuse victims. In effect, this legislation will allow survivors of federal child sex abuse offenses to file civil claims for abuse-related injuries whenever they are mentally and emotionally prepared to do so. This law benefits future survivors and current survivors whose claims were not already expired on September 16, 2022. While this does not change current state law, there has been a movement to pass similar legislation for claims based on state law. For additional information on pending and current legislation, please visit Child USA’s National Overview of Statutes of Limitation (SOLs) for Child Sex Abuse

Some states have also taken steps to address the issue for survivors who were assaulted as an adult. These measures include extending the time period for asserting claims of sexual assault, implementing temporary lookback windows to allow survivors to bring forward claims previously barred by the statute of limitations or abolishing the statute of limitations altogether.   

For instance, California enacted the California Sexual Abuse & Cover-Up Accountability Act, effective from January 1, 2023, until December 31, 2023. This law opens a temporary lookback window, which allows adult survivors to file civil claims against entities involved in covering up their sexual assaults that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations. Through this legislation, Victoria Valentino, who alleges that Bill Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1969, was able to pursue a claim against him. In a statement, Valentino expressed her hope that “By breaking my silence and speaking my truth, I hope this serves as my legacy to my family, and shows those survivors who have yet to find their voices, that hope and healing are possible.” 

Similar measures have been enacted in New York and New Jersey recently. For example, the Adults Survivor Act opened a one-year lookback window in New York. In response to the bill’s passing, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said that “With the Adult Survivors Act, we are saying that we believe you and that you deserve accountability. This powerful legislation is the first of many steps towards better supporting survivors of sexual abuse and ensuring these heinous crimes don’t go unpunished.” E. Jean Caroll, for instance, was able to file a civil claim against Donald Trump pursuant to the Adult Survivors Act. In May, a jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll

Nevada recently passed SB 129, a bill that eliminates the statute of limitations for civil suits involving sexual assault between adults. This marks a notable shift from Nevada’s previous law, which had a two-year time limit. As a result, survivors like Lise-Lotte Lublin are now able to file civil claims against Cosby, which were previously barred by the statute of limitations. Inspired by fellow survivors of Cosby, Lublin decided to share her story and tried to file a police report in 2014. After recounting her story to the police, the police informed Lublin that nothing could be done because too much time has passed. Consequently, Lublin began urging Nevada legislators to extend the statute of limitations. When SB 127 passed, Lublin’s husband stated that “for decades upon decades upon decades in Nevada, Bill Cosby has hid behind the statute of limitations. And that day is over, and we’re coming for him.” 

The attorneys at Crew Janci LLP have helped hundreds of victims of sexual abuse across the United States. Call today for a free, confidential consultation at 1-888-407-0224 or use our confidential submission form. We will treat you with dignity and respect.

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Valerie Juntunen

Valerie attended the University of California Los Angeles, where she received her B.A. in Psychology. During her undergraduate years, Valerie served as co-director of Bruin Consent Coalition, an organization dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual violence, educating her fellow students on the necessity of consent, and improving university resources. Valerie decided to further pursue her interest in advocacy work by attending law school and is currently a rising third-year at the University of Oregon School of Law. Before joining Crew Janci as a summer law clerk, Valerie worked for the Los Angeles County Bar Association's Domestic Violence Legal Services Project. Valerie is grateful for the opportunity to assist Crew Janci's courageous clients in their pursuit of justice and healing. In her free time, Valerie enjoys baking chocolate chip cookies, playing Wordle, and listening to The Happiness Lab podcast.