For survivors of childhood sexual abuse, the road to recovery is long and difficult. It can take years – even decades – to process the horrifying aftermath and its lasting effects on your life. Many victims don’t even fully remember the abuse until years later, when it surfaces during therapy. Life events such as having children of your own can also trigger long-buried memories. The brain has a way of shielding us from such traumatic events.

What delayed discovery means for the usual deadlines

This “delayed discovery” aspect of childhood sexual abuse claims sets them apart from other types of legal claims. It doesn’t make sense for the typical statutes of limitations (deadlines) to apply. Childhood sex abuse claims are essentially in a category of their own.

What deadlines do apply?

Last year, New Jersey amended its statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse claims. Survivors now have until age 55 or seven years after discovering the abuse (whichever is later) to bring a claim. Before that amendment, the deadline was age 20 or two years after discovering the abuse.

Temporary suspension of the deadline

The amendment also temporarily suspends the statute of limitations for all childhood sex abuse claims. In essence, it opened a limited period of time for all survivors to file claims, even if they would be time-barred under the new law. That window opened in December 2019 and expires November 2021.

New York enacted a similar law, called the Child Victims Act, which likewise temporarily suspends the statute of limitations. These windows open the doors to justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse – a much-needed development as more and more instances of abuse come to light.

 

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