Many victims of child sex abuse have long given up the idea seeking justice by bringing a claim against the perpetrator through a civil lawsuit. They have been told that the statute of limitations has expired and that there is nothing they can do. But in Hawaii a new law (SB 217, Sessions Laws 2011) allows a civil lawsuit to be filed today even if the abuse occured at a Church or Foster Home in the 1960's or 70's or 80's. Even if the Minister, Priest, teacher or foster parent is now deceased, the law allows a lawsuit against the the Church or the government agency that allowed the foster parent to take the child. From April 2012 to april 2014, Hawaii has opened the door on the right to sue the perpetrator and those that facilitated or enabled the crime to occur. The law is described at the website of The Sex Abuse Treatment Center of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu:
Civil actions can be brought against alleged perpetrators in child abuse cases:
- up to 8 years after the child victim or person who committed the act of sexual abuse attains the age of majority (18 years), whichever occurs later; or
- up to 3 years after the date the minor discovers or reasonably should have discovered that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of minor's eighteenth birthday was caused by the sexual abuse, whichever comes later.
- for a period of two years after the effective date of this new law (April 24, 2012) for cases in which a victim of child sexual abuse had been barred from filing a civil claim against the alleged abuser due to the expiration of the applicable civil statute of limitations that was in effect prior to April 24, 2012.
A civil action may also be brought against public or private entities that employed the person accused of committing the abuse if that entity owed a duty of care to the victim.
"More Time for Justice", an article from the New York Times points out that the new law recognizes that most child victims are not psychologically able to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator until long after the statute of limitations (the time within which a civil lawsuit must be filed) has expired. The New York Times Editorial salutes Hawaii's Governor Abercrombie for leading the nation in this area:
Hawaii significantly strengthened its protections against child sexual abuse last month when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a measure extending the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits filed by child victims. At least as important, it opens a one-time two-year window to allow victims to file suits against their abusers even if the time limit had expired under the old law.
Contact the National Crime Victim Bar Association or call 202-467-8716 to find a trial attorney in your area who can advise you about child sex abuse laws.