Only one out of three people choose to report their sexual assault to the police. Reporting childhood sexual assault can be extremely challenging.
Many people take decades to report their childhood sexual assault. The average age of those reporting was 52 years old. Perpetrators use many tactics to convince children to trust them and manipulate them into staying silent.
In 2019, the California legislature acknowledged the severity and pervasiveness of the effects of childhood sexual assault.
Assembly Bill 218, the California Child Victims Act, expanded access to legal action for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, now called “childhood sexual assault.” Also, survivors of any age may file claims until January 1, 2023, regardless of when the abuse occurred.
If you or a loved one has experienced childhood sexual assault, you do not have to suffer in silence. Now is the time to stand up and speak out. The attorneys at Boucher LLP have substantial experience standing with childhood sexual abuse survivors and seeking justice on their behalf.
We have advocated for clients who experienced sexual abuse by members of the clergy, teachers, and members of the entertainment world. Below, we explain California Assembly Bill 218 and how your attorney can assist you in seeking compensation and finding closure.
What Are My Rights Under The Law?
The Governor of California signed Assembly Bill 218 into California law on October 13, 2019, and it went into effect on January 1, 2020.
The new law expanded legal access for survivors by extending the length of time a survivor has to file a lawsuit, allowing survivors to seek compensation from not only the perpetrator but also the organization responsible, and providing for additional compensation in the form of triple damages in case of a cover-up.
In addition, CA Bill 218 affects confidentiality being a condition of settlement and eliminates the notice, otherwise known as the “presentation” requirement for sexual abuse lawsuits against local government entities.
How Did Assembly Bill 218 Change the Statute of Limitations (Time Limits for Lawsuits)?
Under the previous law, survivors of childhood sexual assault only had until their 26th birthday (eight years after reaching the age of majority) to file a lawsuit. In addition, if the survivor discovered a psychological injury or illness in adulthood caused by the childhood assault, they had only three years to file suit.
California Bill 218 acknowledged that many survivors do not come forward to report their assault until adulthood.
One of the primary provisions of Bill 218 extends the time limit to file a lawsuit. Now, a survivor has 22 years to file a lawsuit after reaching the age of majority (i.e., their 40th birthday). If an illness or psychological injury appears later in life, survivors have five years to file a suit after they discover the injury.
The new law allows you to get justice for childhood sexual assault, even after the passage of time. Additionally, the new law revived any previously expired statute of limitations, allowing survivors three years from January 1, 2020 to file suit.
Who Can the Law Hold Responsible?
Assembly Bill 218 allows survivors of child sexual assault to seek justice against not only the perpetrator of the childhood sexual assault, but also the institution that was responsible for keeping the child safe.
For example, a school district, archdiocese, or a boys and girls club has a duty to act reasonably to protect the children in their care. If the responsible entity fails to do so, the entity may be held to account for its negligence in hiring and or supervising the perpetrator and allowing the assault to occur.
What Does CA Assembly Bill 218 Say About Cover-Ups?
Under the new law, a “cover-up” occurs when there is “a concerted effort to hide evidence relating to childhood sexual assault.”
If a court finds sufficient evidence of a cover-up, the law penalizes the offender by making them pay three times the ordinary damages in a lawsuit. Unfortunately, it’s common for an organization to move a perpetrator to a new position rather than acknowledging a complaint.
This practice allows the abuser to continue their harmful behavior rather than face the shame and consequences of their actions. Covering up an assault is never right, and the new law intends to punish and discourage such schemes.
What About Confidentiality in Settlement Agreements?
Before Assembly Bill 218, many of the survivors who did come forward received settlement offers from the entities they sued. A common condition of accepting the settlement was confidentiality.
By accepting compensation for the abuse they suffered, survivors were prohibited from speaking publicly about the abuse or the responsible institution’s role in allowing the abuse to happen.
Assembly Bill 218 revised Section 1002 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The Section now explicitly prohibits settlement provisions that prevent survivors from disclosing factual information related to a childhood sexual assault. If you have a factual foundation for your claims, the defendant’s settlement offer cannot require confidentiality.
Publicly releasing records and information on childhood sexual assaults and their perpetrators is essential in restoring power to the survivors, revealing the inside knowledge the responsible organization kept secret, and preventing further abuses.
What If the Offender Was a Local Government Entity?
Assembly Bill 218 also amended Section 905 of the Government Code. This Section relates to the Government Claims Act, which requires a person to present his or her complaint to the local government entity he or she alleges bears responsibility for the harm suffered before filing a lawsuit against that entity.
Under the amended Section 905, claims of childhood sexual assault are exempt from the presentation requirement. If the perpetrator worked for a local government entity, such as a teacher working for a school district, you do not have to fulfill any requirements under the Government Claims Act before filing a lawsuit.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
While the details of California Assembly Bill 218 are straightforward, taking your perpetrator and the entity responsible to court is not an easy task. We know the courage and bravery it takes to speak up about childhood sexual assault.
Emotional trauma, health problems, and social pressures can keep you from seeking justice against the institution that failed to keep you safe from a sexual predator.
When you are ready to move forward, reach out to the trauma-informed team of sexual abuse attorneys at Boucher LLP. Although taking that first step toward legal action is challenging, it can help bring you peace and closure. Call today.