January 2020 Statute of Limitations Changes for Childhood Sexual Assault Lawsuits in California

Adults who were sexually assaulted as children often repress memories of the abuse for many years. In some cases, an individual may not recall the sexual assault for decades.

In some cases, children were terrified to come forward or to say anything because the abuser threatened the child or the child’s family. Below is an example of one such child survivor who today bravely tells his story. His uncles and cousin were eventually held accountable and punished.

Other sexual abuse survivors may have felt an overwhelming sense of shame or fault which prevented them from telling their parents, law enforcement officers, school administrators, doctors, teachers or therapists.

The previous laws in California required individuals who were sexually assaulted or sexually abused as a child to file a civil action for recovery of damages within eight years of reaching the age of majority (18).

In other words, victims had until their 26th birthday to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for damages related to childhood sexual assault or abuse under the previous statute of limitations.

The prior statute of limitations only allowed a survivor to file a civil claim seeking compensation within three years from the date that the person discovered or should have reasonably discovered that an illness or injury was caused by the childhood sexual abuse. Symptoms could take decades to manifest and so the artificial imposition of this law was too restrictive.

Defense attorneys and personal injury attorneys who are handling these cases have a variety of legal strategies they use to argue that the sexual abuse survivor was prevented from realizing or discovering the sexual assault or trauma associated with sexual abuse.  Modern therapy and trauma counselors now have a better understanding and compassion about the delayed reporting of such crimes.

The idea that a person who was sexually abused or sexually assaulted as a child would run out of time to pursue legal action against the perpetrator of the abuse or the parties liable for the sexual assault is “outrageous,” according to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

California Assemblywoman Gonzalez who helped co-author and who introduced Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) stated that we should not tell childhood sexual abuse survivors that they have run out of time to file claims when we need to encourage them to come forward to protect others from suffering future abuse.

The bill signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in October 2019 became law on January 1, 2020.  It put an end to the silencing of survivors of childhood sexual assault and sexual abuse by allowing them ample opportunity to file civil lawsuits after coming to terms with the abuse or recalling the repressed memories of abuse as adults.

What Should You Do If You Were Sexually Assaulted as a Child?

If you are unsure what to do or you are having difficulty talking about the sexual assault, there is help.

We can put you into contact with several sexual assault organizations to get immediate counseling and we can help you locate a profession and licensed counselor in your area who is empathetic and understanding. You should also consider contacting a trusted medical care provider to discuss treatment for illnesses and injuries related to the childhood sexual abuse.

By contacting us first we can act as a clearinghouse to get you the services that you need and deserve while at the same time initiate a civil action for compensatory monetary damages. 

Because there are different statutes of limitations pertaining also to criminal charges related to childhood sexual crimes, you may also want us to contact law enforcement on your behalf so that we may shield you from the sometimes rough approach taken toward survivors.  Our law Firm wants to support you in any way possible so that you can tell your story and start healing right away.

A California sexual assault attorney can also help you with the steps you may need to take to protect yourself and others.

Your attorney can provide legal advice, support, and guidance as you seek medical treatment, mental health treatment, work with law enforcement agencies, and pursue a civil action against your abuser. It may be difficult to come forward, but our assistance is always available.

The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse can cause debilitating conditions for survivors. Some of the documented effects of being sexually abused as a child include:

-Depression is one of the most common long-term symptoms among survivors of child sexual abuse.

-Survivors experience shame, guilt, self-loathing and often act out in ways that are self-destructive as a result of the childhood sexual abuse.

-Eating disorders and body image and shame issues are also results of childhood sexual assault.

-Anxiety and stress, including chronic anxiety, anxiety attacks, tension, PTSD and phobias.

-Difficulty establishing, nurturing and maintaining interpersonal relationships.

-Problems with sexual functioning, including avoiding sexual relations, guilt regarding sex, and lack of interest in healthy sexual relations.

Fiumara Law has a history of fighting for Survivors of Sexual Abuse & Assault in California

In 2007 long before the now favorable law, AB 218 was enacted, our law firm took on the powerful Santa Rosa Archdiocese and the Bishop to settle the priest sexual abuse from then Father Xavier Ochoa and recovered over $5 million dollars for our 9 survivors of sexual abuse.


We encourage you to speak out if you have been sexually assaulted and or abused.

Your voice, added to other voices, brings light to a horrific crime that occurs more often than many people realize. We understand that it is painful and difficult to discuss what happened.

Our law firm provides a safe and compassionate setting to discuss what happened and where you can learn about your legal options for holding the party or parties responsible and held accountable for the sexual abuse that they had inflicted upon you when you were a child.  

Contact us today at 707-571-8600 for a FREE and 100% CONFIDENTIAL consultation and find out how we can help you!

For more info on how we can help you if you have been abused, CLICK HERE

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