On Friday, President Biden signed a bill that will eliminate the statute of limitations for those who have been sexually abused as minors to file civil claims.
What is a statute of limitations? A statute of limitations refers to the amount of time a claimant has to file a lawsuit. In the context of sexual assault, it refers to the amount of time a survivor has to file a claim against their perpetrator or some other liable party. Prior to this bill, and pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2255, a minor who survived sexual abuse had to file federal claims within 10 years of discovering he or she had been abused or before reaching the age of 28, whichever was later.
What does the Act change? Passed in the Senate by unanimous consent in March 2022 and in the House by voice vote on Tuesday, September 13, 2022, the “Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act” (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”) will eliminate any time constraint by which survivors must file a civil lawsuit for various claims of abuse. Such claims include the sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, forced labor, and sexual exploitation of minors and children. As written, the Act encourages Transparency in guaranteeing there “shall be no time limit for the filing of a complaint commencing an action” for the sexual assault of a minor.
Federally, the Act is a monumental step towards Justice. However, it will not directly affect how sexual assault is defined and handled in state courts, which is examined on a state-by-state basis. In Michigan, Public Acts 180 and 181—created in response to Larry Nassar’s abuse and passed as legislation in 2018—extended the amount of time permitted to file civil claims and criminal charges for the sexual assault of a minor. This gave survivors more time to report and sue perpetrators. Notably, those acts state the following:
- a civil action for the sexual assault of a minor may be brought before the survivor turns 28 years old or within three years upon the survivor’s discovery that he or she had been sexually assaulted as a minor, whichever is later; and
- a criminal indictment for the same may be filed before the survivor turns 28 years old or within 15 years after the offense is committed, whichever is later.
What is the importance of the Act? Sexual assault is a serious crime that can have significant effects on a survivor’s well-being. The physical, mental, and emotional effects of sexual abuse and assault are immense and far-reaching, and many times survivors of sexual assault have difficulty processing their trauma or are fearful of reporting such an offense to authorities or reaching out for support.
Senator Dick Durban of Illinois, one of two senators who introduced the bill, made the following statement after the House passed the bill: “The science of trauma is clear: it often takes years for victims to come forward…. By signing this legislation into law, we can finally help survivors have their day in court and a moment of healing—when they are ready.” The Act ensures Accountability on the survivor’s terms—not by the trivial constraints of an arbitrary legislative timeline.
Grewal Law is honored to represent survivors and hold perpetrators and their enablers accountable. Our firm has taken on a number of high-profile sexual assault cases against a variety of Michigan schools, including the University of Michigan for survivors of Robert Anderson and Michigan State University for the survivors of Larry Nassar.
The trauma-informed attorneys at Grewal Law advocate for transparency, accountability, and justice for survivors. Call (888) 227-4770 or contact us online to speak with a compassionate attorney in a free, confidential consultation.
Carlye represents survivors of Sexual Assault, Civil Rights Violations, and Medical Malpractice. Carlye is a zealous and compassionate advocate and, through her role as an associate attorney at Grewal Law, she is committed to the fight for Accountability, Transparency, and Justice.