Part 3 of 4: A New Federal Law May Expand Abuse Victims’ Rights to Pursue Damages

The Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022 places no time limits on when victims can sue.

Editor’s Note: Child abuse scandals continue to garner widespread media attention as well as the attention of lawmakers nationwide. As more victims come forward, often years or decades after suffering alleged abuses, they learn their state’s statute of limitations prevent them from seeking damages from the perpetrator or, when relevant, the perpetrator’s employer through civil lawsuits. These time bars have become subject to changes—and in some instances, outright removals—by state legislatures in an effort to help victims.

This four-part series focuses on this continuing trend, helping churches and church leaders understand the potential ramifications. This part looks specifically at changes made by Congress as a way to offer victims a path to seek legal remedies if their states’ statutes of limitations have not been extended.

In 2022, Congress enacted the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act. This Act provides that “there shall be no time limit” for filing civil lawsuits for any of the following federal sex offenses:

Federal offenseCitation
Forced labor18 USC 1589
Trafficking for forced labor18 USC 1590
Sex trafficking18 USC 1591
Aggravated sexual abuse18 USC 2241(c)
Sexual abuse18 USC 2242
Sexual abuse of a minor18 USC 2243
Sexual exploitation of children18 USC 2251
Selling or buying children18 USC 2251A
Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors18 USC 2252
Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors18 USC 2252A
Production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation into the United States18 USC 2260
Transportation generally18 USC 2421
Coercion and enticement18 USC 2422
Transportation of minors18 USC 2423

It remains to be seen how effective this legislation will be since most sex abuse claims are brought in state court. However, it likely will benefit victims of child sexual abuse whose claims are barred by state statutes of limitation.

Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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