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Almost Half of U.S. States Now Allow Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse to Sue
Grewal Law, PLLC
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Maine has joined two dozen states across the nation to reform the statute of limitations, the time in which a person legally has a right to file a lawsuit, pertaining to child sex abuse. States are changing their laws to significantly increase the time during which a child victim of sexual abuse may file a civil lawsuit. In addition to permanently lengthening the time in which a survivor may file suit, many states, including Maine, have established one- or two-year “lookback windows,” during which any victim can file suit, regardless of when the abuse took place.

The law was passed in late June but does not go into effect until October 18, 2021.

In the U.S. one in five people suffered child abuse as a child. The lookback windows opening up across the country give hope to some survivors that they may be able to confront their abusers and the institutions which failed to protect them and in many cases, covered up the abuse and protected the abuser.

Advocates for survivors who are leading the charge to change the laws in the U.S. point to a German study that found that among a group of 1,000 survivors, the average age to report was 52 years old.

While the lookback window in New York recently closed on August 13, 2021 (just days after survivor Virginia Guiffre filed suit against Prince Andrew for sexually assaulting her when she was just XX years old), the window in Maine, Louisiana, North Carolina, Arkansas, Nevada, and Vermont remain open.

One of the most prominent advocates for child sex abuse victims is the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). SNAP director Zach Hiner said that state legislatures are finally realizing that exposing criminals who abuse children is an extremely effective way of protecting children – especially since charging and convicting child molesters is very tough. “’Window’ laws also deter abuse and cover up,” Hiner added. “Employers and supervisors hate the thought of being deposed and dragged into court to defend their reckless and callous behavior, so every one of these lawsuits is a clear, stern warning to decision-makers who may be tempted to be lax with kids’ safety.”

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