Bill Would Give Victims of Sexual Abuse More Time to Sue Abusers

Daily News:  A state senator on Friday sought to get rid of the statute of limitations preventing some victims of child molestation from suing their abusers.

Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said current law requires that victims sue by their 26th birthday, or within three years of the date they discovered their psychological trauma was linked to sexual abuse during their youth.

He said Senate Bill 131, if approved, would help victims whose repressed memories of the abuse did not surface until after their deadline to file a lawsuit expired.

“Existing law requires action for damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual abuse commence by age 26, but we have a lot of medical and scientific literature demonstrating that this is not appropriate,” Beall said.

“In many cases, the discovery of psychological injuries stemming from sex abuse as a child emerge later in life – well beyond age 26,” he added.

“Therefore, there’s a real need for a statute to care for survivors and give them a chance for justice after age 26.”

Astrid Heger, a professor of clinical pediatrics at USC, and executive director of L.A. County-USC Medical Center’s Violence Intervention Program, supported eliminating the statute of limitations.

“I think that children should be allowed to sue or seek redress in the courts for abuse of any kind against them when they reach adulthood because, obviously, they can’t take advantage of the legal system as children,” Heger said.

Beall said California’s statute of limitations is “one of the most restrictive” in the country, noting some states set the age limit at 35 or 42. In Florida, he said, the state Legislature in 2010 approved reforms that removed the age limit altogether.

If SB 131 is signed into law, it would eliminate the statute of limitations for actions that occur after Jan. 1, 2014. The bill contains a retroactivity clause for certain cases prior to that date.

“If victims can’t get damages because of the statute of limitations, then they, or taxpayers, have to bear the medical cost of their counseling and support,” Beall said.

“We’re trying to remedy this because we think their medical and psychological rehabilitation should be covered by the people who committed the abuse.”