SAFE Child Act Extends Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors

Feb 12, 2021

Recent legal developments bring good news for childhood sexual abuse survivors, expanding their opportunities to hold the responsible parties accountable. The SAFE Child Act extends the statute of limitations for individuals who were sexually violated as children to bring civil claims and also strengthens penalties against child abusers. Critically, the law specifically allows survivors whose claims were previously barred by the statute of limitations to bring civil claims against their abusers now, but these claims must be filed before December 31, 2021.

Boy Scouts Abuse and Sexual Abuse in the Church

The impact of this new law is made even more significant with the recent published reporting of thousands of children having been the victims of abuse during their time in the Boy Scouts of America or at the hands of priests or other faith leaders. These are only a few examples; sexual abuse within organizations can occur in places like summer camps, schools, or any space where minors are supervised by adults that are expected to behave professionally and consciously. In many of these instances, survivors are pressured and manipulated by their abusers to not report the abuse at the time that it occurs.

What is the SAFE Child Act?

This new law provides childhood sexual abuse survivors with an opportunity to pursue justice as adults for abuse that was previously barred by the statute of limitations. Previously, survivors had only three years after their eighteenth birthdays to seek civil relief. Under the new law, survivors may now file a lawsuit for abuse that occurred when they were a minor until they are 28 years old or up to two years after their abuser has been convicted of a felony in the criminal system – whichever is longer.

Survivors may pursue civil relief not only against individual abusers, but against entities and organizations that are responsible for allowing the abuse to occur. For example, a person who was abused as a child by an adult scout leader may not only have a case against that individual abuser but may also have a case against the Boy Scouts of America as an organization for its role in enabling or not reporting the abuse.

Pursuing Sexual Abuse Claims Against Organizations

Edwards Kirby has pursued many cases on behalf of survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse, and is aggressive about ensuring that responsible entities – even beyond the abuser – are held accountable. For example, Edwards Kirby recently secured a $35 million judgment for a client against an assailant for sexual assault and a $2.5 million settlement for negligent security against the owner of a premises where a sexual assault occurred. In this case, the owner was responsible due to premises liability, but organizations, businesses, and other entities may also be liable in cases of:

    • Negligent hiring – The employer or organization knew or should have known about employee’s dangerous or untrustworthy background.
    • Negligent supervision – Someone had a legal responsibility to supervise others and failed to do so.
    • Negligent training – The employer or organization fails to prevent the actor from injuring the plaintiff or fails to remedy a pattern of behavior that causes injury.
    • Negligent retention – The employer or organization fails to terminate or otherwise remove an actor who the employer or organization knows or should know to have a propensity to engage in injurious behavior.

Lawmakers agree that this “bipartisan legislation goes a long way to protect all victims of sexual assault, especially children, and will help more people seek justice against abusers.”

If you are a sexual abuse survivor, you deserve justice today, regardless of whether that abuse happened when you were a child. The attorneys at Edwards Kirby would like to hear your story and talk with you about providing the help that you need. Calling our office is free and confidential, and you will pay for our services only if you win your case.

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