Assembly Bill 218 and Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Assembly Bill 218 was passed in California in October 2019 and made sweeping changes to the way childhood sexual abuse is handled in our court system. It has expanded the definition of sexual abuse, provides harsher penalties for groups that were complicit in the abuse, and, perhaps most importantly, has greatly expanded the statute of limitations for victims seeking justice.
There have been attempts with similar goals before Bill 218. In 2013, Senate Bill 131, which was focused on extending the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse victims, passed through both the Senate and the Assembly, but was vetoed by former Governor Brown. Assembly Bill 3120 in 2018, which also sought to extend the statute of limitations, also passed through the Senate and Assembly, but was also vetoed by former Governor Brown.
It was a hard-fought battle to get Assembly Bill 218 passed and finally give survivors of childhood sexual abuse the help and rights they deserve. Now that the bill has finally been passed into law, it is expected that thousands of survivors will finally be able to report their abuse and hold their abuser accountable for the trauma they caused.
If you are among those who are now able to finally seek justice from your abuser and from the organization that helped cover up the trauma you faced, contact us at NordstrandBlack PC. You deserve to have an experienced and skilled Santa Barbara personal injury attorney by your side. Call (805) 962-2022 and let’s discuss your case.
Before Bill 218, the statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse was capped at three years after the reasonable discovery of a psychological injury, or if the survivor was over the age of 26. While this has been viewed as a reasonable age and time limit in the past, it is now understood that most survivors don’t speak about their abuse until far into adulthood. Expecting someone to report their abuser at the young age of 26 is unreasonable and unfair.
Now that the bill has passed, survivors are given until they are 40 years old to make a report or five years after the reasonable discovery of a psychological injury. On top of that, a look back window has been provided for the next three years (or until 2023) for any previous reports and claims that did not qualify under the old statute of limitations. This means that for three years there is no set statute of limitations, and survivors of any age can file a claim against their abuser.
Besides expanding the statute of limitations, Assembly Bill 218 also focuses on penalties for abusers, specifically organizations that cover up sexual abuse in favor of not facing consequences. Under Section 340.1 (2.c), a cover-up is defined as “a concerted effort to hide evidence relating to childhood sexual assault”.
If an organization, such as a school or church, chose to hide evidence of sexual abuse to a child, rather than report the incident, then it may be ordered to pay the victim triple the amount of damages awarded.
For example, if the survivor files a claim for sexual abuse against a school that protected the abuser, rather than help the survivor, and the survivor is awarded $100,000 in damages, then a judge may decide that the school must actually pay $300,000 to the survivor.
Coming forward and reporting childhood sexual abuse is a traumatic experience. In order for the courts to determine what happened, survivors are often asked to repeat the story of their abuse several times, forcing them to relive it. If this process is done too early, it can have a detrimental impact on a survivor’s mental health.
Under Bill 218, survivors finally have the option to give themselves the time they need to properly heal, process, and recover from the trauma they suffered. There will no longer be a need to rush into a report or claim. Victims will be able to choose for themselves when to come forward, rather than having their hand forced by the law.
Childhood sexual abuse leaves lasting trauma. There is no way to reverse what was done, but victims still deserve compensation for the pain and suffering they lived through, either from their abuse or from an institution that covered for an abuser when they should have protected them. If you or a loved one was abused, contact our attorneys at NordstrandBlack PC by calling our number (805) 962-2022 or by filling out our online contact form. We believe in holding people accountable for the pain they’ve inflicted.