August 18, 2021
Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI-4) announced the No Time Limit for Justice Act, a bill that incentivizes states to eliminate their statute of limitations for criminal prosecution and civil suits involving child sexual abuse. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every nine minutes a child is sexually abused in the United States, but only twelve percent of these cases are reported to authorities each year. Studies have shown that the discrepancies in underreporting of minor sexual abuse can be largely attributed to the fact that a majority of child victims do not reveal their abuse until later in life, if at all. While the current federal criminal code does not impose a statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, many state laws deprive victims and survivors of abuse the opportunity to heal and seek justice from their abusers. The No Time Limit for Justice Act would allow victims of child sexual abuse to seek justice and finally have their day in court by providing states that eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting child sexual abuse and civil suits involving child sexual abuse with a five percent increase in federal grant awards under the Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors (STOP) Program to train law enforcement and prosecutors handling child sexual abuse cases. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is a cosponsor in the Senate.
“No child should ever have to endure the trauma of child sex abuse, which can lead to devastating and long-lasting effects. As lawmakers, we must do everything in our power to support these victims and respond in a manner that meets the unique needs of their situation,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Any statute of limitations that prohibits the prosecution of child sexual abuse creates a barrier to justice and Congress has a duty to act. I am proud to join Congresswoman Gwen Moore in announcing the No Time Limit for Justice Act, which incentivizes states to end stringent statute of limitations laws and empowers child sex abuse victims to seek their day in court on their own terms whenever they should choose to move forward on their paths toward healing.”
“The trauma of sexual abuse is so great that most victims do not report their abuse until adulthood. And several statutes of limitations on the state level end in as little as three years after the crime is committed, an unreasonably small window for victims to hold their perpetrator accountable. By motivating states to end these burdensome legal barriers, we’re allowing victims to their basic right to seek justice and to help heal from enduring trauma,” Congresswoman Moore said.
“Survivors of child sexual abuse, many of whom were abused by a trusted adult in their lives, often take years to process the horrors that they have experienced. They should not be denied the opportunity to seek justice and hold their perpetrators accountable because of an arbitrary statute of limitations. We thank Senator Gillibrand and Representative Moore for their leadership in introducing the No Time Limit for Justice Act to incentivize states to do away with these unreasonable restrictions,” Scott Berkowitz, president, RAINN.
“Child sex abuse remains a rampant national epidemic with at least 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 13 boys in the United States sexually abused before they turn 18. Restrictive state statutes of limitations (‘SOLs’) continue to protect sexual predators and the institutions that endanger children,” said University of Pennsylvania Professor Marci Hamilton, who is the founder and CEO of CHILD USA. “On the heels of the closure of the New York Child Victim’s Act, a window to justice that opened a door to justice for nearly 10,000 child sex abuse survivors, this bill will be a major step forward at the federal level to encourage more states to reform SOLs. Such reform would level the playing field for the victims and allow the public to identify child predators and the institutions that enable them. We are grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this issue and look forward to working with her and other members of Congress to get this bill swiftly signed into law.”
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 9 minutes a child is sexually abused in the United States—about 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under 18 years old. 93 percent of these victims know or are familiar with their perpetrator. Even with these overwhelming and significant numbers, only 12 percent of child sexual abuse is reported to authorities each year and as many as 60-80 percent of victims of childhood sexual abuse wait until adulthood to disclose their abuse.
The current federal criminal code does not impose a statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. However, many state laws deprive victims and survivors of abuse the opportunity to heal and seek justice from their abusers. Only seven states—North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming—have eliminated statutes of limitations for all felony sex crimes. Specifically, the No Time Limit for Justice Act would provide states with a five percent increase in federal grant awards under the Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors (STOP) Program to train law enforcement and prosecutors handling child sexual abuse cases. The STOP Grant is the largest program under the Office on Violence Against Women that provides formula funding to states for victim services, and training for law enforcement and prosecutors to constructively address sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. States are eligible for funding if they have:
Eliminated the statute of limitations for prosecuting child sexual abuse
Eliminated the statute of limitations civil suits involving child sexual abuse.