Various factors have contributed to childhood sexual abuse being one of the most underreported crimes, including the fact that over ninety percent of all childhood sexual assaults are perpetrated by a person personally known to the child or their family. And while the underreporting prevents us from knowing exactly how prevalent these heinous crimes are, most studies show that almost 10 percent of all children have been the victims of sexual assault.
Following some very high profile child sexual abuse scandals, including the Penn State scandal, as well as the USA Gymnastics and the Boy Scouts of America sex abuse scandals, many states, including California, took a second look at their laws and made significant changes. In California, the state legislature passed the California Child Victims Act, which came into effect on January 1, 2020. The new law makes it easier for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to hold perpetrators and organizations responsible for the abuse by extending the time victims have to file a claim. Moreover, the new law expands the definition from “childhood sexual abuse” to “childhood sexual assault,” which has broadened the scope of behaviors that could be actionable.
By law, children cannot consent to any type of sexual activity and any sexual interaction with a minor can be considered sexual assault. As a result, childhood sexual assault can take many forms and can be both physical, where there is a direct sexual contact with a child, as well as non-physical, where the perpetrator does not actually touch the victim.