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How the statute of limitations for childhood abuse has changed

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2023 | Sexual Abuse |

A statute of limitations is a deadline as to when victims of a crime can take legal action against the individual or group who caused the harm. New Jersey has extended its statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Psychology Today discusses that some of the long-term consequences of sexual abuse as a child include depression, eating disorders, anxiety, alcohol abuse, obesity, gastrointestinal issues, sexual dysfunction and lowered ability to earn income. The new law allows more individuals to seek justice against their abusers.

Law regarding the previous statute of limitations

Prior to 2019, New Jersey had a shorter window for civil statute of limitations. Individuals who were survivors of sexual abuse prior to the age of 18 had to file a lawsuit two years after identifying the abuse or before they turned 20, whichever situation was later.

Current legislation extends the statute of limitations

The Official Site of the State of New Jersey discusses legislation S477, which extended the statute of limitations for civil actions. Childhood sexual abuse survivors can now file a lawsuit seven years after the discovery of abuse or before they turn 55, whichever is later. The rationale for this extension is that sexually abused children often do not report abuse due to the emotional, psychological and social trauma the experience caused.

The defendants may include not only the individuals who were the abusers but also the public, private and non-profit institutions that enabled or covered up the abuse. This includes educational, religious and other institutions responsible for providing an environment in which children are safe and cared for.