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Mary Beth first spoke of the physical and psychological injuries she sustained as a result of childhood sexual abuse when she was in her early fifties. The shame and fear of retaliation kept Mary Beth from disclosing the abuse for decades, resulting in her claim being time barred by the state’s civil statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time an injured party has to initiate a legal proceeding. Statutes of limitations vary by state, with each state setting specific time limits for a variety of claims. 

Data collected by the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that over 80% of child sexual abuse is unreported. When survivors eventually disclose their experiences, the majority are well into adulthood. 

There are several factors that contribute to why survivors do not confront the abuser, abusive institution, or inform law enforcement. Many survivors like Mary Beth live with their injuries for decades, unable to speak about the sexual violence and ensuing psychological trauma. 

In Maryland, individuals like Mary Beth may soon be given the opportunity to hold perpetrators and institutions that hide sexual abuse accountable with new laws that extend the statute of limitations for civil claims. This proposed legislation would allow previously time barred civil complaints to be brought in court. 

National Trend Towards Justice for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

In 2019, several states and Washington D.C. amended their statute of limitations, resulting in a new ability of survivors to finally seek redress for injuries. The extended statute of limitations also serves as a way to alert the public of sexual predators hiding within America’s communities.

Maryland’s movement toward revising its sexual abuse statute of limitations is part of a larger national discussion regarding the restrictions imposed upon child sexual abuse survivors who seek to hold authority figures accountable for their actions. Legislation expanding the Pennsylvania statute of limitations window is also expected to move forward this year, fueled by the recent reckoning of institutions such as the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America.

Child Victims Act of 2023

The Child Victims Act of 2023 (“CVA”) would eliminate the statute of limitations for filing civil claims against child sex abusers. Currently, persons injured by sexual abuse in Maryland must bring civil actions by their 38th birthday. This restrictive time bar permits abusive individuals and institutions that facilitated abuse to go unpunished.

The CVA overwhelmingly passed in the Maryland House of Representatives and Senate. The fate of the bill is now in the hands of Maryland Governor Wes Moore. Governor Moore must decide whether to veto, sign the bill, or do nothing and allow the bill to become law without his signature. If the CVA becomes a law, many more survivors of abuse will be able to pursue justice in Maryland. 

Helping Our Clients Break the Silence

For individuals injured by child sexual abuse, holding perpetrators and abusive institutions accountable is a challenge under Maryland’s current laws. Outdated, arbitrary, restrictive deadlines that block survivors from filing claims in civil court no longer comport with time required for survivors to disclose abuse. 

For over 20 years, the attorneys in the Sexual Abuse Practice Group at ASK LLP have represented men, women, and children injured by sexual abuse. Ask LLP attorneys have worked with a wide array of survivors including NCAA Division I athletes and victims of Catholic Church Clergy abuse. Our attorneys understand the litigation process and counsel and advise clients seeking to hold both individuals and institutions accountable for abuse. To learn more about ASK LLP and the work we do on behalf of sexual abuse survivors, visit our website or give us a call at (877) 746-4275 to discuss your experiences.