A bipartisan bill that is awaiting a vote in the California State Legislature could make it easier for the victims of childhood sexual abuse to hold their abusers and those that aided them or concealed their abuse accountable. Assembly Bill 452, which is also called the Justice for Survivors Act, is backed by lawmakers from both parties and in both legislative chambers. One of the bill’s co-authors chairs the Legislative Women’s Caucus.
Statute of limitations
AB 452 amends the California Code of Civil Procedure to remove the statute of limitations for minors who suffer sexual abuse. Children who are sexually abused are often reluctant or unable to step forward because of trauma, threats of harm or fears over whether or not they will be believed. Advocacy groups say the bill is needed because the sexual abuse of children is worryingly common and the current laws allow many abusers to escape responsibility.
Federal action leads to state action
Several states have passed laws similar to AB 452 since September 2022. That was when President Joe Biden signed the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act, which removed the time limit for childhood sexual abuse victims in federal courts. AB 452 was introduced on Feb. 6, and it was referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on March 23. This is the committee that evaluates the fiscal impact a bill will have after it has been passed by a policy committee.
A federal example should not be needed
The introduction and anticipated passage of AB 452 should be applauded, but lawmakers should not have waited until the federal government set an example to take action. Children are some of society’s most vulnerable members, and all of the legal barriers they face when they seek to hold their abusers accountable should be scrutinized closely and eliminated if possible.