Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2016


News reports of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests initially shocked and subsequently angered the public. Emboldened by the public's reaction toward sexual abusers, survivors attempted to confront their abusers in civil court. Jurisdictions adjudicated these claims if they were brought within two years of reaching the age of majority. Yet, survivors often did not recognize the damage done to them until several years after they reached the age of majority. And by the time they did, the two-year statute of limitations had passed. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, survivors lobbied state legislatures to extend. the time within which they could sue their abusers. Almost all state legislatures responded by extending the statute of limitations well past the age of majority so that survivors had more time to bring their claims. In contrast, few states allow survivors of physical and emotional abuse and neglect the same right.

I argue that this legislation should apply to survivors of all forms of child abuse. Recent research dispels the mistaken beliefs that underlie the justifications for the disparate treatment. Given this, extension of the statute of limitations and delayed discovery rule to survivors of all forms of child abuse is necessary. Doing so would improve survivors' health and productivity. Dependence on welfare, disability, unemployment would decrease as a result. Finally, it would send the message that all forms of childhood maltreatment are damaging and worthy of recognition.