Washington D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Deborah Ross (D-NC) led Representatives Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), and Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) in introducing the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act, which will ensure that survivors of child sex abuse are able to seek justice under the federal civil remedy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2255, without being barred by statutes of limitations. The bipartisan legislation will enable survivors who were victims of over a dozen federal child sex abuse offenses to seek civil damages in federal court no matter how long it has taken the survivor to process and disclose the abuse they suffered. The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and passed by unanimous consent in March of this year.
“Survivors of sexual abuse, especially young victims, often take years to process the trauma before reporting the offenses they experienced, only to be met with statutes of limitations that prevent them from seeking justice,” said Congresswoman Ross. “I am proud to lead this commonsense, bipartisan bill in the House, alongside Representatives Swalwell, Reschenthaler, and Salazar to ensure the survivors of these terrible crimes can finally have their day in court.”
“We must protect children who survive these horrific crimes so they can begin to rebuild their lives,” said Congressman Swalwell. “Our bipartisan Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act gives survivors an additional resource towards accountability by removing the civil statute of limitations for federal trafficking and child sex abuse claims. Although this legislation will not take away the pain endured by survivors, it will give them expanded opportunities for some closure and compensation toward helping them move on with their lives.”
“As a former district judge, I saw firsthand the long-term physical and mental toll childhood sexual abuse takes on survivors,” said Congressman Reschenthaler. “By eliminating the statute of limitations to seek civil damages in federal court, we can ensure survivors of these heinous crimes receive the justice they deserve.”
“True justice should know no time limits and our law should reflect that,” said Congresswoman Salazar. “By eliminating the statute of limitations, my colleagues and I are proud to stand with victims and ensure that victims of child sex abuse, exploitations, and trafficking do not have an arbitrary expiration on justice.”
According to CHILD USA, the National Think Tank for Child Protection, data suggests that 86 percent of child sexual abuse goes unreported. For victims who do report their abuse, “delayed disclosure,” or the tendency of survivors of child sex abuse to wait for years before disclosing abuse to others, is common. Historically, delayed disclosure has impacted survivors’ path to justice.
Under current federal law, no statute of limitations bars the prosecution of criminal offenses involving child sex abuse anytime while the child victim is alive or 10 years after the offense, whichever is later. However, statutes of limitations remain an obstacle for survivors under the federal civil remedy statute. While Congress in 2018 lengthened the SOL for federal civil child sex abuse claims until the victim reached age 28 or until 10 years from the discovery of the violation or injury, this SOL still does not reflect the current state of research on delayed disclosure.