Washington D.C. Last week, President Biden signed into law the Senate companion to Congresswoman Deborah Ross’ (NC-02) bipartisan legislation to ensure that survivors of child sexual abuse are able to seek justice in court without being barred by statutes of limitations. Congresswoman Ross introduced the legislation with Representatives Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14), and Maria Salazar (FL-27). She spoke in support of her legislation on the House floor.

86 percent of child sexual abuse goes unreported, and the average age of victims reporting child sex abuse is 52.  The Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act will enable survivors who were victims of over a dozen federal child sex abuse offenses to seek civil damages in federal court regardless of the time it takes to process and disclose the abuse.

“The trauma of childhood abuse can take decades to process, and too often, statutes of limitations prevent survivors from seeking the justice they deserve,” said Congresswoman Ross. “All survivors deserve to see their day in court no matter how long it takes them to process the trauma they’ve experienced. I’m proud that our bipartisan legislation was signed into law and will ensure our most vulnerable can see justice served.”

For victims who choose to 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 (SOL) 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.