Georgia bill to extend statute of limitations for childhood sexual assault victims fails

Proposed law would have extended child sexual assault victim statute of limitation by 15 years

Last week in the Georgia General Assembly a bill sponsored by state representative Jason Spencer called the Hidden Predator Act of 2018 failed to pass when this year's legislative session ended. This law would have extended the statute of limitations for Georgia childhood sexual assault victims (under the age of 18 when victimized for civil action purposes) to file lawsuits from the current cutoff of when the victim attains 23 years of age (with some exceptions) to 38 years of age. U.S. News & World Report says different versions of the bill passed both the House and Senate, but the two chambers did not reach a compromise on the final edition of the law.

What is the current Georgia law regarding the statute of limitations for child sexual assault victims?

The current civil Georgia statute of limitations for sexual assault victims who were children can be found at O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.1. Notably, the statute defines a victim of "childhood sexual abuse" as a person who had an act of sexual assault committed against him or her while under the age of 18. This differs from the criminal context in which a minor victim in most instances (exception:  sexual exploitation is defined as under the age of 16. However, many of the offenses which qualify for this particular statute of limitations still require that the act be committed when the victim was under the age of 16 for those particular offenses (aggravated child molestation, child molestation, statutory rape, enticing a child for indecent purposes, or any other sexual assault offense in which a lack of consent is supplied by the age of the victim rather than the facts of the incident). 

O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.1, for the most part, sets the statute of limitations as when a Georgia victim of childhood sexual abuse attains the age of 23 (lawsuits must be filed by this date at the latest). In other words, it extends the statute of limitations beyond the typical two years from an incident. There is an exception in the statute which extends the filing time to two years from when the victim knew of the childhood sexual abuse as established by competent medical or psychological evidence (example: a person at the age of 30 learned of childhood sexual abuse through psychiatric counseling has two years to file a lawsuit from the date of learning of the abuse--this would require a court to find the evidence was discovered on that date in a pretrial hearing).

The full list of offenses covered by the statute of limitations includes:  trafficking a person for sexual servitude, rape, statutory rape, aggravated sodomy, child molestation, aggravated child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes, incest, aggravated sexual battery, and Part 2 of Article 3 of Chapter 12 of Title 16 (typically involving sexual exploitation of children or child pornography). 

Why would extending the statute of limitations for Georgia childhood sexual abuse victims make a difference?

Often these crimes involve issues children are afraid to disclose until much later in life. According to the above cited U.S. News and World Report story, Georgia has some of the weakest laws in the country as far as protecting the right for child victims to sue. It is very common for childhood sexual assault victims to first begin to speak about their abuse well past the age of 23. According the the story, special interest groups including the Boy Scouts of America and Georgia Catholic Conference lobbied against the Hidden Predator Act of 2018. Lobbyist groups know there are victims out there who would pursue claims between the ages of 23 and 38, who were too afraid to come forward earlier in life.

Statutes of Limitation are always important

If you or a loved one have been the victim of a sexual assault, disclosure can be difficult and the thought of more attention to the abuse can be scary. However, statutes of limitation impose cut off dates to pursue your rights. If you would like to simply discuss your rights in a private, confidential setting and discuss whether there is the potential to financial recovery to help with counseling costs and physical, mental, and emotional damages, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free confidential consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.