Understanding California AB218 and What It Means For Survivors

There’s a lot of growing excitement and discussion in the Child Protection Movement, locally and across the country, around California Assembly Bill 218 – and rightfully so. It transcends bi-partisan politics. It kicks open courthouse doors thought forever closed. It makes healing and justice a possibility for survivors of child sexual abuse. It’s a BIG DEAL.

So, what exactly does AB218 aim to accomplish? Technically speaking, AB218 proposes amendments to Sections 340.1 and 1002 of the California Code of Civil Procedure and Section 905 of the Government Code relating to childhood sexual abuse, opens a three year window for previously time-barred claims to be filed, changing the definition of childhood sexual abuse, and increasing the time limit for commencing an action for recovery of damages suffered.

But what does that mean for survivors?

First: It provides more time to seek justice. AB218 seeks to change the statute of limitations (legal time limit to bring a case) for childhood sexual assault to give more survivors of childhood sexual abuse an opportunity to seek justice through the judicial system. Right now in California, survivors are subject to restrictive time limits that often bar survivors from taking action. AB218 aims to raise the age limit to file a claim from 26 to the age of 40, OR within 5 years of the date that you discover the psychological injury or illness caused by the abuse (whichever comes later).

Second: It updates language to reflect reality. AB218 seeks to change the term childhood sexual abuse to childhood sexual assault. Anyone who has been sexually abused as a child or knows a survivor understands the significance of this change and how accurately it conveys the violation and violence of any sexual act performed on a child. The change in this phrasing has great power to shape how the judicial system, the general public, and survivors themselves talk about and understand the nature of the violence survivors endure.

Third: It provides for a three-year window for all survivors to seek justice. Similar to the laws recently enacted in New York and New Jersey, AB218 lifts the statute of limitations for a short time on child sexual abuse for all survivors, no matter how old they are, when the abuse occurred, or if their abuser is alive or dead. AB218 opens a window that lasts three-years from the time of enactment. Three years may seem like a long time – and compared to similar windows, it is – but the legal process can also take a long time, meaning the sooner one files a claim, the less pressure from the calendar.

For all these reasons, and more, new legislation like AB218 is beyond exciting—it’s revolutionary.

It signals a revolution led by brave survivors and advocates who work tirelessly to amplify the conversation about child sexual assault; to demand that new paths to justice be opened so the truth, so long hidden in shame and shadow, can be brought out into the healing light of a new day; and to hold perpetrators and the institutions that protected them accountable for their crimes.