Years ago, victims of sexual abuse, specifically child sexual abuse had a very short window where they could come forward and pursue criminal or civil charges against an abuser. These laws made it challenging for adults who were victims of abuse as children from teachers, clubs, sports, and clergy to come forward and seek legal channels.
A look-back window is a period of time where people of any age can pursue legal claims against abusers no matter how long ago it was. In California, the California Child Victims Act includes a 3-year window where survivors of child sexual abuse can file claims against the abuser in court.
It’s important to seek counsel from a sexual abuse attorney who has expertise in this area and understands how this law applies and what evidence or testimony is needed to make a case.
What States Have Look Back Windows?
California, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina all have look-back window provisions in their laws. The length of the windows varies from state to state, but in general, each state opened a window of time where victims of child sexual abuse of any age can pursue legal claims against their abusers and any institution that covered up the abuse.
How Long Is The Look Back Window in California?
AB 218 is the bill responsible for opening a “look back” window in California. This law opened up a period of two years that started on January 1, 2020, and ends on December 31, 2022. During this time, adult survivors of child sexual abuse can work with a sexual abuse attorney to file civil charges against their abuser or abusers. This window allows abuse victims of any age to seek recompense for the abuse they suffered.
Why Was The Look Back Window Necessary?
Laws only allow a certain statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. In the past, adult victims of child sexual assault in California only had until they were 26 years old to come forward. Because the healing process is different for each individual, it meant that older victims of abuse couldn’t seek any legal action against their abusers if they were much older.
California’s AB 218 not only opened up a window to allow abuse victims of any age to come forward, but it also raised the age from 26 years old to 40 years old. Once the “look back” window is closed, adult survivors of child sexual abuse will have until they are 40 to seek civil litigation against any and all abusers.
How Can A Sexual Abuse Attorney Help?
Survivors who are ready to come forward should seek legal help from a sexual abuse attorney. They can help them build a civil case, find other survivors who may be willing to come forward, and more. They have experience with these types of cases and understand the difficulties that survivors have in coming forward. Expert lawyers in the area of sexual abuse can also help prepare survivors for what it will be like in the courtroom to help mitigate any further trauma.
What Are The Limitations Of Look Back Laws?
Because the “look back” laws only opened a small window of time, it’s even more critical to consult a sexual abuse attorney. Many of these windows are closing soon if they haven’t closed already. Some of the provisions of these laws allow survivors to seek compensation from government agencies, private organizations, and even individuals. While the laws do help to create greater accountability for perpetrators, it doesn’t mean that these people will serve time for their crimes. For some survivors, it can feel overwhelming to know that their abuser still walks free even after they win a civil case.
Legal Rights Of Survivors
Many survivors falsely believe that because the abuse happened when they were a child, they can’t do anything about it. One of the benefits of the “look back” laws is that they give a voice back to survivors who may have previously felt silenced. They allow survivors of any age to finally seek legal action. It’s important to get legal counsel if you’re ready to come forward and pursue a legal suit against your abusers. You may have specific rights depending on the parties involved in the abuse.