The House on Tuesday passed a bill eliminating the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse who seek to file civil claims, sending the measure to President Biden’s desk for final approval.
The chamber cleared the bill, titled the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act, by voice vote, a strategy reserved for non-controversial, popular measures. The Senate passed the legislation by unanimous consent in March.
The measure calls for removing the statute of limitations for minors filing civil claims relating to a number of sex abuse crimes, including force labor, sex trafficking, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.
Under current law, minors who experience sexual abuse are able to file federal civil claims until they turn 28 years old, or until 10 years after the violation or injury is discovered. The bill Congress passed seeks to eliminate those time restraints.
There is no statute of limitations in place for criminal offenses involving child sex abuse.
During debate on the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said survivors of child sex abuse often delay reporting their situations, which could put them at risk of not seeking damages because of the statute of limitations.
“Also common is delayed disclosure, with the tendency of survivors of child sexual abuse to wait many years before disclosing abuse to others,” Nadler said. “This is because survivors of sexual abuse often take a long time to process their trauma and many survivors who were abused as a child may not even recognize the abuse they suffered until much later in life.”
“Unfortunately, because survivors of child sexual abuse often delay reporting, any statute of limitations may prevent survivors accessing justice and seeking damages in civil court,” he added.
The New York Democrat argued that statutes of limitations in place for civil claims of child sex abuse “can serve to protect abusers and enable them to continue to exploit their power by allowing victims’ claims to expire.”
“This bill will enable survivors who are victims of federal child sex abuse offenses, including aggravated sexual abuse, sex trafficking, human trafficking, forced labor, and sexual exploitation, to seek civil damages in federal court regardless of the amount of time that has passed since the abuse,” he added.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on the House floor Tuesday said the bill “would allow victims of human trafficking or sex offenses to seek civil remedies regardless of when the crime took place.”