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.