This week, St. George’s School in Middleton, Rhode Island finally agreed to provide compensation for 30 former students who were sexually abused by school staff. The abuse occurred from the early 1970s to the early 2000s. The agreement comes on the heels of the filing of a similar sexual assault lawsuit against a private Los Angeles school, and just a few years after the notorious Penn State scandal.
Over the past several years, there have been many high-profile child sex abuse scandals involving abuse that occurred decades before. These are tragedies that both highlight the long-term effects of sexual abuse and the need for the justice system to understand such effects. Due to the nature of these crimes and the impact they have on the psyche, experts are advocating for the suspension of statutes of limitations in these types of cases.
In most states, once victims reach a certain age, their attackers cannot be charged with crimes related to the abuse, nor can the accusers seek justice in civil courts. In California, civil claims of sexual abuse must be made within 8 years of becoming a legal adult (meaning before the victim’s 26th birthday). However, the state has recently adopted an extension of this statute based on when the discovery of child sexual abuse or its psychological effects occur. For instance, this ‘discovery’ of the sexual abuse might occur when memories of the abuse arise through a therapy session, after which the person has three years to file a civil claim.
This rule is designed to counter the issue of prosecuting dangerous molesters whose victims have repressed the memories, sometimes for decades following the legal statute of limitations.
Such is the case both in the Marlborough School suit and the St. George’s School suit. In the California case, the plaintiff remembered the actual sexual encounters but did not understand the long-term psychological impacts of the abuse until she underwent therapy and connected her abuse with that of another student victimized by the same attacker. In the St. George’s suit, one of the victims similarly chose repression, stating “I had buried all that deeply inside of myself in a box, I didn’t want to bring it out again.”
However, because childhood sexual abuse has such a wide-ranging list of long-term effects, including depression and self-destructive behaviors like alcoholism, victims must have access to justice long after the abuse occurs.
If you, or someone you love, have been abused, please contact our office today at 888.212.0440 or through the form below for a free case review.