It’s official. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has signed House Bill 492, removing the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims. It’s now the law of the land in Louisiana.
This means that those who were sexually victimized as children in that state – at any time, by anyone, can take an important step to help the wounded heal and help the vulnerable be safer, as they can now file a civil lawsuit. As defendants, they can also name both wrongdoers who perpetrate the abuse AND wrongdoers who enabled it; those who commit AND or concealed these awful crimes.
But that’s only part of the good news regarding archaic, arbitrary, and predator-friendly statute of limitations these days. More and more, our society and courts are expanding victims’ rights to expose predators and win compensation. Read on!
Last year, Maine and the North Mariana Islands (a US territory in the western Pacific) became the latest jurisdictions to adopt a permanent revival statute of limitations for child sex crimes. (Vermont did as well in 2019.) Perhaps the first time, federal legislation has been introduced, giving states greater incentive to update and expand their child sex abuse laws. (Specifically, the measure would make states eligible for additional funding if they have ended the statute of limitations in sexual abuse for both civil and criminal cases.)
At the same time, fewer and fewer jurisdictions are upholding or honoring long-standing roadblocks that stand between survivors and justice. Only three states (Utah, Wisconsin, and Missouri) make it harder for abuse survivors to sue because they let churches hide behind the First Amendment (claiming that any abuse lawsuit inevitably interferes with their ‘freedom of religion’). TAKE NOTE: This doesn’t mean you have no hope for justice if you were victimized in these three states. It just means that your legal road is more challenging.
Only eight states still have some form of “charitable immunity,” another obstacle that makes legal action more difficult (though not impossible) for survivors. The Louisiana law merits some explanation. “Over the past year, the Catholic Church has repeatedly argued in Louisiana courts that some of the claims being brought under the lookback window are not valid,” according to one news outlet. Church officials argue that “the window only applies to abuse that has happened since 1993 because the language of the law references an older statute regarding child abuse that wasn’t enacted until 1993.”
In other words, despite clear legislative intent to help survivors that were shut out of the legal process, the church hierarchy seized on a minor legal technicality to try and evade their duty to help survivors. Several Louisiana judges have ruled in different ways on this argument. That necessitated a second legislative vote that clarified the window. So, in the end, justice prevailed. But only after yet another fight initiated by Catholic bishops.
But now is the time to focus on – and circulate – the good news. Though it’s long overdue, policy-makers across the US are slowly showing greater sensitivity to the suffering and less deference to the powerful, at least in child sex abuse that happens in large institutions. So please spread the word: Though it’s almost always hard for survivors to speak up and seek justice, lawmakers and judges continue to make the journey forward less intimidating and difficult for those who do manage to reach out for help and take action.
We have reached a tipping point in society where sexual assault and abuse victims have become empowered in record numbers to share their stories, speak out, and hold perpetrators and others responsible for acts of sexual misconduct. We have seen this trend emerge in many industries and institutions. From the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church to the Boy Scouts, Hollywood moguls, celebrities, and powerful politicians, we have witnessed sexual misconduct exposed amid the collective strength of victims who refused to be silenced. Horowitz Law has filed numerous sexual assault lawsuits on behalf of clients who have been a victim of sexual assault or sexual battery. Please contact our law firm at 888-283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz for massage clients at [email protected] for a free consultation.