3 More States Poised to Lift Time Constraints on Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits

June 9, 2023

Michigan, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are poised to lift their statutes of limitations on child sex abuse lawsuits before their current legislative sessions end.

The states’ moves follow Vermont, which was the first state to remove the limits in 2019, followed by Maine in 2021 and Maryland this year.

In April, Maryland lifted its time limits on child sexual abuse lawsuits against institutions less than a week after the state’s attorney general alleged decades of abuse of more than 600 children by over 150 priests associated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore.

In Michigan, three separate bipartisan bundles of legislation have been moving through the state Capitol, with lawmakers hoping to bolster reporting requirements, increase punishments for convicted abusers, give victims more time to sue, and more.

It was seven years ago that disgraced sports-medicine doctor Larry Nasser was convicted of serially molesting female athletes at Michigan State University, as well as women and girls who were members of the USA Gymnastics team, over a two-decade period. He’s currently serving a 40- to 175-year prison sentence.

In Massachusetts, child sex abuse survivors have pressed the State House to approve a package of bills they say would protect others from future abuse.

And as Rhode Island’s legislators move forward, the state is already one of six that now require clergy who learn of child abuse in a private religious rite such as confession to report it.

Other states, meanwhile, have briefly removed the statute of limitations on lawsuits for childhood abuse for limited time periods. More than 10,000 plaintiffs sued under New York State’s recent two-year set-aside, of which some 9,000 cases went to trial.

“The momentum is irreversible,” said Marci Hamilton, CEO of CHILD USA, a child abuse and neglect prevention think tank.

According to the CDC 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18.

On a related note, writer E. Jean Carroll successfully sued former President Trump for sexual battery and defamation this year under New York’s follow-up Adult Survivors Act, which allows a one-year window—until November 2023—for adult sex abuse victims to file civil claims.

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