Arizona Bill Passed to Help Survivors of Sex Abuse
Arizona lawmakers are making strides toward protecting survivors of sexual abuse. The passing of House Bill 2466 marks an important victory for child sex abuse survivors, who may now be able to bring civil lawsuits against their perpetrators when they could not before. Governor Doug Ducey signed HB 2466 into law on Memorial Day – Monday, May 27th, 2019. The governor signed the bill after it passed unanimously through the House and Senate.
Extended Statute of Limitations
One of the main provisions of HB 2466 is an extended statute of limitations for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Survivors now have a longer amount of time in which they may bring claims against perpetrators. Despite friction, lawmakers finally agreed on compromises that allowed them to vote the bill forward. The new statute of limitations applies to civil sex abuse cases, not criminal cases. A civil claim is one a survivor can bring against a perpetrator in search of compensation for his or her damages. Thanks to HB 2466, childhood sex abuse survivors now have 12 years to file their claims rather than 2.
Gov. Ducey spoke after signing the bill into law, stating that he and other lawmakers understood the trauma and pain survivors of child sexual abuse face and how this can make it difficult for them to immediately come forward. He says they deserve more time to confront their perpetrators through the civil justice system, which is what HB 2466 gives. Before HB 2466, child sex abuse survivors had 2 years from the dates of their 18th birthdays to bring civil claims against their perpetrators. Now, they have until the age of 30.
The new deadline to file a civil claim also applies to survivors who may have already surpassed the previous two-year statute of limitations. Even if a survivor had lost the opportunity to file a claim before HB 2466 and is older than age 30, he or she may now bring a claim until December 31st, 2020. In these cases, however, the burden of proof is stronger. The plaintiff’s sexual assault attorney must prove the case with clear and convincing evidence rather than the standard of more likely than not to be true. Plaintiffs older than 30 also will not be eligible for punitive damages.
Broad Range of Liability
HB 2466 does not only enable survivors to bring civil suits against sexual abuse perpetrators but also against institutions that knew or should have known of the sexual misconduct. If a school, for example, knew about the sexual abuse of student yet negligently failed to do anything, it could be liable for that survivor’s damages. Schools, clergy, childcare centers and organizations such as Boy Scouts of America could now face lawsuits from child sex abuse survivors who had previously surpassed their deadlines to file. If you or a loved one was a victim of child sexual abuse by a member of the clergy, our clergy abuse attorneys may be able to help. The same statute of limitations – 12 years from the survivor’s 18th birthday – applies to these cases.
Justice for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse Task Force
As part of Gov. Ducey’s commitment to helping child sexual abuse survivors in Arizona, he also announced a new task force to further the state’s efforts toward justice and restitution: the Justice for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse Task Force. This entity will work to recommend legislation and other actions by the state for further reforms to help child sex abuse survivors. The task force will consist of members from law enforcement, the Arizona Senate, the House of Representatives and other advocates against child sexual abuse.
The passing of HB 2466 could finally bring justice and closure to people who have lived with their trauma in silence. Child sex abuse survivors now have longer timeframes for coming forward with their stories and seeking restitution from perpetrators and institutions. Lawmakers that supported the bill, including Gov. Ducey, hope it will also expose child sex abusers and sexual predators in Arizona. Publicly exposing child sex abusers could prevent future such tragedies from occurring.