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Hawaii Law Benefits Victims of Child Sex Abuse

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In April a new law went into effect in Hawaii that opens a two year window for people who were sexually abused as children to bring civil lawsuits against the perpetrator no matter how long ago it happened. A good summary of how the new law works can be found at website of The Sex Abuse Treatment Center of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu:

Summary of the new law:

Civil actions can be brought against alleged perpetrators in child abuse cases:

  • up to 8 years after the child victim or person who committed the act of sexual abuse attains the age of majority (18 years), whichever occurs later; or
  • up to 3 years after the date the minor discovers or reasonably should have discovered that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of minor's eighteenth birthday was caused by the sexual abuse, whichever comes later.
  • for a period of two years after the effective date of this new law (April 24, 2012) for cases in which a victim of child sexual abuse had been barred from filing a civil claim against the alleged abuser due to the expiration of the applicable civil statute of limitations that was in effect prior to April 24, 2012.

A civil action may also be brought against public or private entities that employed the person accused of committing the abuse if that entity owed a duty of care to the victim.

The New York Times in "More Time for Justice" heralded the new law as removing one of the most difficult realities for children who were victims of sex abuse: the fact that often by the time the victim psychologically strong enough to pursue a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator, the statute of limitations (the time within which a civil lawsuit must be filed) has expired. The New York Times Editorial points to Governor Abercrombie's signature on the new law as a significant national event:

Hawaii significantly strengthened its protections against child sexual abuse last month when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a measure extending the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits filed by child victims. At least as important, it opens a one-time two-year window to allow victims to file suits against their abusers even if the time limit had expired under the old law.

Anyone who feels that they may want to file such a claim should first speak with a psychological counselor or social worker trained in field of child sex abuse. Such consultation is very important and can be done with complete confidentiality. It is important that any victim of this horrific type of assault, be supported by a group of people who understand what is involved in bringing a civil lawsuit. In addition the victim should talk to more than one attorney who handles child sex abuse cases. Speaking with more than one lawyer and evaluating what legal approach and what personality type the victim is most comfortable with in this important and emotionally difficult area. Lawyers who handle these cases will review your case – with complete confidentiality – at no cost to the victim and if you hire one of these lawyers, we all work on contingency fees where the only way the lawyer gets paid is to win the case and collect the money from the perpetrator.

The two year window to file claims began in April 2012 and so if you know someone who thinks that it is too late to file a civil lawsuit and hold the perpetrator accountable, let them know that they have a new opportunity to seek justice.

For those looking for more resources for victims of child sexual abuse, Minnestoa lawyer Mike Brynat has published some useful practical resource lists: Another Helpful Research Website for Sexual Abuse Survivors, September 15, 2012

2 Comments

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  1. David says:
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    Congratulatios to Governor Abercrombie, the State of Hawaii and just as Importantly to those who have and may suffer the Life Time effects of Child Sexual Abuse, something I rightfully choose to call “Rape” of the most horrendous type.

    Many adult survivors of Child rape here in N.Y. have been waging a campaign for the last 10 years, educating our state politicians about this Silent epidemic that Robs children of their Inheritance to be all they dreamed to be as their trust and Faith were stolen by those we were taught to Trust. And when we would question such a crime we were Betrayed on a level so deep that Silence would be our Life Long Tormentor as we tried to put together the pieces of our shattered selves. Some were able to collect enough of the pieces to be able to at least survive. Others weren’t so lucky, some live on the periphery of life as mere shadows of themselves and than there are those who, not being able to live another minute of “Tormented Silence”, finnished what their perpetrators started and silenced themselves Forever by a Drug over dose or Suicide.

    Our N.Y. Legislators ARE and will remain to be Enablers of “Child Sex Abuse”!!! So long as they continue to allow these crimes they NOW know about to go unpunnished and un-exposed.

    Be warned!
    We have hundreds of Pedophiles being protected by NY’s Pedophile friendly Laws.

    NY is a Child Predator Friendly State.

    Bite the Big Apple…don’t mind the maggots! ! !
    – David

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    Great Comment, David! How could any elected official oppose this type of law. I am interested in resources that you may know of that will be helpful to victims of child sex abuse and also those who counsel them.