Wexton and Salazar Introduce Bipartisan Bill Empowering Child Sexual Abuse Survivors to Seek Justice
Washington, April 26, 2023
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and María Elvira Salazar (R-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation to reform statutes of limitations (SOL) laws for child sexual abuse crimes. Only a small handful of states have fully eliminated statutes of limitations for criminal and civil child sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking cases as well as allowed for the revival of time-barred claims. The Statutes of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse Reform Act authorizes $20 million in additional grants for states who achieve these reforms to allow survivors to seek justice on their own time without arbitrary barriers. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“An arbitrary deadline should not stand in the way of justice for one of the most despicable kinds of crime – child sexual abuse. Justice does not have an expiration date, and it is imperative that abusers are stopped and held accountable,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “As a former prosecutor and advocate for abused children, I understand the trauma these survivors are burdened with and am proud to lead this bipartisan legislation to support their healing journey and help them seek the justice they deserve on their own time.”
“Victims of child sexual abuse, exploitation, and sex trafficking have gone through unspeakable tragedies. We must have zero tolerance for the perpetrators of these heinous crimes,” said Rep. Salazar. “I am proud to introduce this vital legislation with Congresswoman Wexton to ensure that the vile humans who take advantage of the most vulnerable do not get away unpunished.”
Approximately 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 13 boys suffer child sexual abuse. However, it is estimated that over 80% of child victims never report their abuse to authorities and the vast majority of claims expire before the victim is ready and able to take their case to court. In nearly every state across the country, existing statutes of limitations laws are making it more difficult and even impossible for child sex abuse victims to pursue justice and hold their abuser accountable.
The trauma that victims of child sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking face at such a formative age can stay with them for years, affecting their long-term physical, mental, and behavioral health. Because of this trauma, research shows that many survivors don’t come forward until they are over 50 years old, meaning that the statute of limitations prevents prosecutors from bringing charges in many cases.
“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 assaulted before they turn 18. The Statutes of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse Reform Act would be a major step forward at the federal level to establish a national standard for abuse survivors to seek justice by incentivizing states across the country to reform their restrictive statutes of limitations that continue to protect sexual predators and responsible institutions in our communities. Many states have dramatically improved their SOLs, and they deserve credit for that. But too many are dragging their feet. It's time for Congress to incentivize the states to do the right thing to make sure that every survivor regardless of where they were abused can get access to justice. SOL reform not only levels the playing field for the victims, but it also serves the public's need to know who is endangering our children. We are grateful to Representative Wexton 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,” said Marci Hamilton, founder and CEO of CHILD USA.
The full text of the bipartisan Statutes of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse Reform Act can be found here.