Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) today introduced the Extending Justice for Sex Crime Victims Act to extend the civil statute of limitations for minor victims of federal sex crimes, including sex abuse, sex trafficking and child pornography.
Under current federal law, sex abuse victims must file suit against their abusers within 10 years of the offense or by age 21. Cases filed later are dismissed, even though many victims do not come forward about their abuse until later in life. The bill would extend the statute of limitations until age 28. This is already the case for victims of federal sex-trafficking crimes. A similar provision was recently included in the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016, at Feinstein’s request. The bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee earlier this month.
The bill also clarifies that the civil statute of limitations does not begin to run until the victim discovers the violation or injury. For example, a child whose image is used in pornography may not become aware of it for years; a child who is sexually abused may not understand what happened until later in life.
“It often takes years for victims of child sexual abuse to come forward,” said Senator Feinstein. “They are traumatized. They feel alone. They may not fully understand what happened to them. To bar these victims from seeking justice when they process their abuse and are ready to come forward is wrong. Extending the statute of limitations is the right thing to do for young victims of these horrific crimes.”
“While the federal criminal justice system is effective at punishing those who commit crimes, too often victims are not given the support they need to begin the healing process. By extending the civil Statute of Limitations, this legislation will allow victims of some of the most horrifying child abuse crimes to seek justice against sexual predators,” Senator Cornyn said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this bill forward.”
The bill is supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Crime Victims Center and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.