June 21, 2021

Statute of Limitations & Child Sex Abuse: A Recent History

In recent years, especially with the virality of the #MeToo movement, there has been a growing awareness surrounding child sex abuse in both online and in the real world. However, not every survivor is still a child. Men and women live in silence for decades while dealing with the trauma that caused by these heinous crimes. Embarrassment, shame, and guilt caused by this trauma make it difficult for victims to want to come forward, let alone testify. Many survivors believe that it is to late for them to receive any amount of justice and have just tried to do their best to move on. Thankfully, a number of states have begun to alter their statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases. These changes enable more victims to pursue the reparations they deserve.


New York State

On February 14, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law. This law gave survivors of child sex abuse more time to take legal action against their abusers and the institutions that enabled the abuse. Survivors can file criminal claims until age 28 and civil ones until age 55. The law also included a one-year period, or look-back window, for survivors who couldn’t come forward before to testify. The legislature later extended this period for another year until August 14, 2021.

In May 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Adult Survivors Act. This act gave survivors of adult sexual assault a one-year look-back window, regardless of when the abuse occurred. A survivor could file a civil case even if the court had previously dismissed the case due to the statute of limitations. This window opened on November 24, 2022, and closed on November 23, 2023.

(June 2024 update: the statute of limitations has not been further extended in the state of New York)


New Jersey

On May 13, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed S477/A3648 (a.k,a. New Jersey Child Victims Act). This law extended the time survivors of childhood sexual abuse can file a claim to seven years after they discover the abuse or until the age 55, which ever is later. Before this, victims had to file claims by age 20 or within two years of discovering the abuse. Now, survivors have more time to understand and process their trauma before taking legal action.

Like the New York State Child Victims Act, this bill gives survivors a two-year window to file lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that enabled the abuse, regardless of the previous statute of limitations. However, this bill only applies to survivors of child sex abuse, not adult sexual assault survivors.

This window opened on December 1, 2019, and closed on November 30, 2021.

(June 2024 update: The legislature did not extend the window, and it closed on November 30, 2021.)



California quickly followed this trend by passing its own legislation. On October 13, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 218. This law extended the time survivors of childhood sexual abuse can file a claim to 22 years after they turn 18 (age 40) or within five years of discovering the abuse. The law also expanded the definition of childhood sexual abuse to include ‘sexual assault’ and gave survivors over 40 years of age a three-year window to file a lawsuit against their abuser. The new law took effect on January 1, 2020, and, barring an extension, closed on December 31, 2023.

(June 2024 update: The look-back window was not extended and has closed. California has introduced new laws to further reform the statute of limitations.)



Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the Justice for Vulnerable Victims of Sexual Abuse Act (SB676) into law in April of 2021. Before this, survivors could only file a claim until age 21 (age of majority plus three). Now, survivors have until age 55 or three years after discovering the abuse to file a claim. This law also allowed a two-year look-back window for survivors of childhood sexual assault and abuse.

Law Firms like Gillispie Law Firm have been helping survivors use this law to pursue justice. The Arkansas look-back window opened on February 1, 2022, and closed on January 31, 2024.

(June 2024 update) In 2023, Arkansas State Senator David Wallace and Representative Jimmy Gazaway introduced an amendment for SB676. This would extended the look-back window and a remove the age limit of 55 years old. The bill passed through and was signed into law by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders on April 11, 2023. Now, Arkansans can file a civil lawsuit regardless of age within three years of discovering the abuse.

The new look-back window opened on February 1, 2024, and closes on January 31, 2026. All survivors who had claims denied due to the statute of limitations now have a new opportunity to file.


Other States

In 2021, many other states passed similar laws. For example:

Louisiana – opened a three-year look-back window. (June 2024 update: the window has been extended for another three years)

Nevada – opened a permanent look-back window and raised the age limit to 36 for new filings.

Colorado – opened a three-year look-back window.

Maine – implemented a permanent look-back window.

Kentucky – survivors have up to five years after the statute of limitations expires to file.


(Update) As of June 2024, according to Child USA, ten states have new reform or resolutions going into effect. Two states have passed reform bills and are waiting for approval. Thirty-three states (and the federal government) have introduced new reform bills.


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Josh Gillispie