There are increasing numbers of stories in the news about sexual assault survivors stepping up and speaking against teachers, coaches, clergy members, scout leaders and even entire school districts. Some of these survivors are relatively young.
Other people are coming forward much later in life. This is partly because of a change to New Jersey law that greatly extended the amount of time people have to begin a civil action on child sexual abuse.
Statute of limitations for child sexual abuse
State law now allows survivors to start civil cases against their abusers up until 37 years after reaching the age of majority. This effectively lets people start cases until they reach 55 years old.
This is probably the most common time limit. However, for people who realize the injury later in life, there is also another rule. This rule gives survivors seven years after the date that they realize the injury has a causal relationship with the sexual abuse they survived as a child.
For example, someone who should have reasonably realized the connection at age 52 might have until age 59 to start the case. However, it would typically not be wise to wait until the very end of the limit to take action.
Why acting sooner might be better
On the emotional side, there is a certain amount of stress and trauma for most people during the prosecution of these types of cases. However, on the practical side, it often becomes more difficult to build an effective case as the years go by and evidence degrades.
There are many factors that come into the balance with these cases. Fortunately, the extension of the statute of limitations gives survivors the time they need to make the necessary connections and come to their own decisions.