Overview of the California Child Victims Act

Childhood sexual abuse is one of most horrific crimes imaginable. Given that it is one of the most underreported crimes, it is very hard to determine the exact number of victims, but what is undisputable is that millions of individuals have suffered instances of sexual abuse as minors. In fact, according to some studies, about 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 13 boys in the United States experience childhood sexual abuse.

Childhood sexual assault can have a devastating and long lasting effect on a survivor of such abuse. Various studies have shown that survivors are more likely to develop depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse issues, risky sexual behavior, and to struggle with various mental health issues, as well as inability to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships. Victims of childhood sexual assault are also at a higher risk for suicide and suicide attempts. Many survivors experience feelings of shame, guilt, self-blame, and have a hard time coming forward and reporting being sexually assaulted as minors. Furthermore, very often survivors suppress the memories of the assault and don’t recall it for many years after the fact.

Until January 2020, the law in California required individuals who had been sexually abused as children to come forward within eight years of turning eighteen years of age, or within three years of the time the victim discovered or should have discovered that their subsequent psychological injury or illness as an adult, was the result of sexual abuse as a child. The prior California law was severely criticized for being too restrictive and for failing to take into account the many factors affecting survivors’ ability to come forward for years after the abuse had taken place, including the stigma attached, embarrassment, or shame. The law also ignored those victims that need years of professional help to even recall the abuse.

The continued criticism of the law along with the high profile instances of injustice in recent years, including the USA Gymnastics and the Boy Scouts of America sex abuse scandals, as well as the countless allegations against the Catholic Church led to changes in the laws of many states, including California. On October 13, 2019, Governor Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 218, and so the California Child Victims Act went into effect on January 1, 2020.

The new law made it easier for survivors to seek justice and to recover damages. First, AB 218 extended the statute of limitation. It increased the time limit for filing a claim to recover damages to the later of twenty-two years after the survivor’s 18th birthday, or to five years from date the victim of child sex abuse discovers or should have reasonably discovered that his or her psychological injury or illness that occurred after the age of majority, is the result of sexual assault as a minor.

Second, the new law expanded the definition of childhood sexual abuse, and is now referred to by the much broader term “childhood sexual assault”, which more accurately encompasses the various types of horrible conduct that victims endure. Childhood sexual assault includes any sexual activity involving a minor for the sexual satisfaction of an adult and can take many shapes or forms, and can be either physical or non-physical.

Furthermore, the California Child Victims Act provides for treble damages, which allows the court to triple the amount of damages awarded in cases where the plaintiff can prove that the sexual assault suffered was the result of a cover-up. In those cases, the survivor has to show that there was a concerted effort by the defendant to hide evidence relating to childhood sexual assault.

No amount of money can erase the suffering victims of childhood sexual abuse experience, but compensation can go a long way in helping survivors overcome the effects of abuse by allowing them to get the help they need to combat the trauma and to eventually one day recover. The experienced attorneys at the Justice Firm understand how horrific childhood sexual abuse is and are ready to provide safe, confidential, and compassionate environment to discuss your case and the legal options available.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of childhood sexual abuse and would like to know more about the law, or are ready to file a claim, you can contact our empathetic attorneys today locally at (310) 914-2444 or at our Toll-Free number at (866) 695-6714, or click here.

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