Our attorneys focus on holding institutions responsible for allowing abuse to occur. We typically do not handle matters involving abuse by a personal acquaintance, family member, or other individual outside of an organization.

California Statute of Limitations on Child Molestation and Abuse

There are few actions as despicable as the sexual abuse or assault of a child —an adult preying upon an innocent child violates both law and morals. 

Sadly, many child molesters get away with their reprehensible actions because survivors are afraid to speak out.  Institutions like schools, churches, and athletic programs that owe a duty of care to children can be complicit in silencing abuse survivors and concealing evidence of sexual abuse, thereby allowing perpetrators to continue their abusive behavior. These institutions may also create an environment where sexual assaults of children can occur, in violation of their duty of care to children. Child abuse can leave emotional scars that are difficult to overcome, and it may take years before survivors feel ready to speak.

Our attorneys at Boucher LLP are legal advocates for childhood sexual abuse survivors. We help survivors seek justice, confronting the predators who hurt them and the organizations that silenced them or enabled the abuse to occur. We aren’t afraid to go against even the most powerful institutions that have hidden or enabled the abuse of children through their own wrongful policies and practices. Survivors often find the process of confronting their abuser through a lawsuit empowering.

To learn more about pursuing civil justice for childhood sexual assaults against institutions, call (818) 340-5400 or contact us online for a consultation.

Here, we’ll discuss the statute of limitations on child molestation in California, including how long you have to file a claim.

What Is California Child Abuse Law?

California law regards sexual assault of a minor as sexual contact that occurs before a person’s 18th birthday.

Sexual abuse can include any of the following:

Sex with a minor can result in criminal charges and civil liability. Minors cannot legally consent to sexual contact.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Child Molestation in California?

Many children suppress traumatic memories or may not recognize the psychological consequences or sequelae of sexual abuse until much later in life. In 2024, California removed the statute of limitations for civil actions for childhood sexual assaults, but the law is not retroactive. 

There is no statute of limitations for civil actions seeking the recovery of damages as a result of childhood sexual assaults that occur as of January 1, 2024, or in the future. However, certain requirements remain for actions brought by a plaintiff who is 40 or older at the time the lawsuit is filed to demonstrate reasonable and meritorious cause for filing the action to the Court. For childhood sexual assaults that occurred prior to 2024, a California statute of limitations exists: childhood sexual abuse survivors must file a claim by either their 40th birthday or within five years of discovering psychological injury or illness that occurred during adulthood was caused by the sexual assault, whichever period expires later. If you or someone you love is a survivor of childhood sexual assault, you may want to consider the pursuit of civil justice and talk with an experienced lawyer specializing in civil actions for childhood sexual assault. 

What Are Warning Signs of Child Sex Abuse?

Children who have been sexually abused may not share their trauma right away.

Instead, adults should look for these common signs of child sexual abuse:

  • Bleeding or bruising around the genitals,
  • Pain when using the bathroom,
  • Self-harm behaviors,
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping,
  • Changed eating habits,
  • Sexual play, and
  • Showing a new fear of a person.

If your child begins showing signs of sexual abuse, you must take this possibility seriously. Sexual abuse of children is far more common than we think. Investigate your hunch and protect your child from anyone you suspect of being a predator.

What Should You Do If Your Child Is Sexually Abused?

If you discover that your child is being sexually abused, you must take action to protect them from further injury. First, you should seek medical treatment from a compassionate doctor.

Next, address your child’s mental health by giving them time with a skilled child psychologist. Often, therapists use techniques like play therapy or art therapy to encourage children to share their experiences. A therapist may be able to reach your child’s hidden pain when you cannot.

After attending to the physical and emotional needs of your child, you should consider taking legal action. You can report the abuse to the police and place a restraining order on the person who hurt your child.

To discuss your legal rights and options for seeking justice and learn more about the statute of limitations in California for child molestations, contact an experienced child sexual abuse attorney.

How Common Is Child Sex Abuse?

According to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), child sex abuse occurs far too often.

RAINN gathered these statistics on the sexual abuse of children:

  • In 2016, Child Protective Services agencies found that 57,329 children suffered sexual abuse;
  • Every nine minutes Child Protective Service finds evidence for a claim of child abuse;
  • Two-thirds of sexually abused children are between the ages of 12 and 17;
  • One in nine girls experiences sexual abuse by an adult;
  • 82% of child sexual abuse survivors are female; and
  • 93% of abuse perpetrators are known to the survivor.

Sadly, child sexual abuse can impact a survivor’s physical and mental health for years. RAINN statistics indicate that survivors of child sex abuse are about four times more likely to suffer PTSD and abuse drugs as adults. Survivors are about three times more likely to experience major depression as adults. 

If you were abused as a child, know that the struggles you have experienced since your trauma are not your fault. You have suffered alone for too long and deserve to have your story heard. A California sexual abuse attorney can help you find your strong voice and confront those who hurt you, through the legal system.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for Childhood Sexual Assault in a Civil Lawsuit?

Taking legal action can help you reclaim the power an abuser took from you or your child. If an institution or individuals enabled the abuser to act—by creating an environment that permitted the abuse of children to occur, or by looking the other way or concealing the abuse—the institution or other individuals may be liable too. 

If you have experienced abuse, shame, and silence at the hands of an organization such as a school or church or athletic program, remember that you are not alone. Chances are, others have experienced similar mistreatment. By coming forward with your story, you will find others who have gone through similar traumas. When survivors come together to share their stories, they can help shine a light on the institutional failures that allowed the abuse to occur in the first place. This can be a crucial step in bringing about change and holding institutions accountable for their actions.

Our California sexual abuse attorneys will help our clients relentlessly pursue every person and institution that contributed to your harm. Exposing their horrific actions can give you a sense of justice and closure, as well as spare other children from suffering similar harm.

Contact an Experienced Child Sexual Abuse Attorney in California

When you learn that you were sexually abused as a child, or if you discover your child is being abused, you may feel righteous anger. People who commit these wrongful actions and the institutions that enable them need to be held publicly accountable for their crimes. Child sex abuse survivors deserve justice.

You can learn about your legal option to pursue a civil lawsuit by contacting an experienced child sexual abuse attorney.

Our lawyers at Boucher LLP represent clients who were abused by family members and friends as well as those children who suffered abuse from leaders of trusted organizations such as the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, schools, and the entertainment industry. 

We listen with compassion and work to prevent children from suffering further trauma in legal proceedings. If you aren’t sure whether your claim is within the statute of limitations, California child abuse attorneys at our firm can evaluate your situation. We’re ready to stand by you as you stand up for yourself and other abuse victims.

To meet with our attorneys and begin your path to seeking justice, contact us online or call (818) 340-5400 for a consultation.