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The US Child Sex Abuse Victims Act: A Guide

In a move in the right direction, a bill that proposed the elimination of the statute of limitation for child sex abuse victims on when they should file their lawsuits in a United States federal court has been formally enacted into law as Public Law No. 117-176. This law is also known as the Child Sex Abuse Victims Act.

The bill was initially proposed in the U.S. Senate on October 28, 2021, and passed unanimously on March 2, 2022. The bill then passed the House of Representatives on September 13, 2022. President Joseph Biden signed it into law on September 16, 2022.

What is the Child Sex Abuse Victims Act?

The Child Sex Abuse Victims Act is an act that removes the statute of limitations for minor victims of a human trafficking or federal sex offence to file a civil action to recover damages.

This Act is applied exclusively to federal lawsuits on historical child sexual abuse crimes in the United States. This means that the victim must file their lawsuits in federal courts to circumvent any statute of limitation in bringing the case.

What is a Statute of Limitation?

The statute of limitation is the legal rule that sets the maximum time when a party to a lawsuit can file a claim against another party. In application to a child sex abuse case, a statute of limitation can dictate when a claimant cannot file a civil lawsuit against their abuser if the statute of limitation has been reached.

Essentially, this Act aims to allow all historical child sex abuse crimes to file their lawsuits without fearing that their claim would be dismissed or not honoured simply because they took longer than the time set to file their lawsuit against their abusers. Although the statute of limitation does serve its purpose in legal justice, there are critical and valid reasons why a victim could take longer than the imposed statute of limitation when they file their formal legal complaint against their abusers.

Some of the valid and authentic reasons why a victim could take longer than the set statute of limitation to file a lawsuit against their abusers could include, but are not limited to:

  • Denial or suppression of the abuse;
  • Shame and embarrassment to face the abuse;
  • Failure to accept or determine that they were victims of a child sex abuse crime; or
  • Depression, guilt, mental anguish, or health issues caused by the abuse

What Child Sex Abuse Crimes Does The Act Cover?

The Child Sex Abuse Act would apply to all child sex abuse crimes filed in federal court. Such child sex abuse crimes include, but are not limited to,

  • forced labour,
  • sex abuse,
  • sexual exploitation, and
  • sex trafficking of minors

How Can The Child Sex Abuse Crimes Act Help Victims?

Before the Child Sex Abuse Victims Act, the U.S. federal laws set that a victim of child sex abuse must file a lawsuit before the victim reaches the age of 28 years old or ten years from the discovery of the offence. This requirement creates significant and unnecessary pressure and roadblock for young survivors of abuse to seek justice. This requirement often leads young victims to give up on pursuing justice and further harm themselves instead of healing.

By eliminating this requirement, this Act can empower survivors to pursue healing and justice against their abusers without compromising their mental health and well-being. This Child Sex Abuse Act is critical to assure the survivors that they will have their day in court to face their abusers even if they took the time to mentally take care of themselves instead of being pushed to file a lawsuit.

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