Overhead view of a young girl covering her face and crying in a school yard.

If you were the victim of child sex abuse occurring in Texas on or after September 1, 2019, you have up to 30 years after your 18th birthday to sue your abuser and/or any organizations or individuals that were negligent in failing to stop the abuse. If the abuse happened prior to September 1, 2019, and the previous 15-year statute of limitations window (starting from the victim’s 18th birthday) was still open on September 1, 2019, that window is now extended an additional 15 years. However, if the statute of limitations on your case had already run out prior to September 1, 2019, the current law does not allow you to file a civil suit for sex abuse.

Child sexual abuse victims who are considering whether to pursue legal action against their perpetrators later in life must consider their state’s statute of limitations for civil actions. This is the time frame in which survivors can file suit for money damages against their offenders and any institutions or entities that condoned or facilitated the assault.

Tap Here to Call Our Law Office

Why Child Sex Abuse Is The Hardest To Prove And Prosecute

Although child sex abuse victims in Texas now have until the age of 48 to sue their abusers, it is still challenging to prove and prosecute. Physical evidence is often lacking even when only a few years, let alone decades, have passed. Medical evidence is available in less than 5 percent of child sexual abuse cases, according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Without physical evidence, jurors may prove reluctant to find the abuser guilty. According to an NIJ study, fewer than 20 percent of child sexual abuse cases were prosecuted. Of those, about half resulted in a conviction or a guilty plea.

One major challenge is relying on the child’s testimony, who must be able to provide a coherent narrative. However, Iit is not uncommon for children to recant their story or change it over time because the legal or familial consequences are stressful. They may feel if they deny or change their story, their normal life will return. For prosecutors, the reliability of a child’s testimony, especially that of a young child, is among their most significant concerns.

Moreover, since relatives are often the perpetrators, family dynamics play a crucial role. If Child Protective Services removes the perpetrator from the home, the abuse should cease. However, the family is often permanently broken, and relatives may hold the child responsible for the upheaval. In addition, if the alleged perpetrator was the primary breadwinner, the economic disruption is often blamed on the victim. The child may also feel protective of them and less comfortable with the professionals interviewing them.

Factors Affecting Proving and Prosecuting Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a crime shrouded in secrecy, with few direct witnesses. The perpetrator may tell the child that this is “their secret.” They may also threaten to hurt loved ones if the abuse is disclosed. Therefore, it can take a great deal of time and patience to determine what happened. These cases are also more likely to be prosecuted when the alleged perpetrator confesses, or several parties have reported them for similar offenses. In addition, when a corroborating witness is available, that increases the odds of whether charges are filed after an investigation.  If the alleged perpetrator is not related to the victim or has a criminal record or history of substance abuse, prosecution is more likely. Finally, the more severe the abuse, the more likely it will go to trial.

Texas Extends Statute Of Limitation For Child Sex Abuse Victims

Under House Bill 3809, passed by the Texas State legislature in May 2019, adults now have 30 years from their 18th birthday to file a complaint for child sexual abuse. This new bill replaces older legislation that only gave child sex abuse survivors 15 years past their 18th birthday to sue. The new 30-year window went into effect on September 1, 2019, and applies to any case of child abuse occurring on or after that date, as well as to any prior case of abuse for which the 15-year statute of limitations window established by the previous law had not yet elapsed. However, victims of child sex abuse whose statute of limitations elapsed prior to the law’s effective date of September 1, 2019, will likely NOT be allowed to sue their abuser.

If you are contemplating litigation, consult with a Dallas sexual abuse victim lawyer about your next steps. Individuals who were sexually molested as children and adolescents deserve justice for the harms caused by their abuse. There are many legal issues that affect civil claims for historic sexual abuse, which are best managed with the compassionate guidance of attorneys from Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP.

Although a lawsuit can never undo the emotional harm inflicted by abusers, successful litigation provides an opportunity for vindication and to hold offenders accountable for their actions. The decision to sue can be an empowering one, as it allows victims to finally tell their story, expose the perpetrator, and strip them of their power and secrecy.

Damage Awards In Civil Sexual Assault Claims

Damage awards recovered in civil lawsuits are meant to compensate a plaintiff for the economic and non-economic harms sustained. Victims of child sexual abuse are able to pursue categories of compensation similar to those in personal injury actions. A settlement or verdict would account for items like: expenses for medical care, psychotherapy and counseling, along with lost income, physical and psychological suffering, and the loss of enjoyment in life.

Tap Here to Call Our Law Office

Civil lawsuits can be expensive to bring, which is why it’s important to look for an experienced personal injury lawyer who represents sexual abuse cases on a contingent fee basis. Under this arrangement, the law firm advances all costs associated with litigation, and the plaintiff is under no obligation to pay unless a monetary recovery is secured in the case.   

Is It Too Late To Sue For Childhood Sex Abuse In Texas?

You have until the age of 48 to sue for sexual abuse that occurred in the past. The extended deadline afforded by HB 3809 provides men and women who repressed painful memories, or who were incapable of facing their trauma, to come forward and seek reparations against those who hurt them.  According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, one in every 4 girls and one in every 6 boys is molested, raped, or sexually assaulted before the age of 18.

Civil lawsuits have become an additional avenue that adult survivors of sexual assault can take on their journey toward healing and closure. The Dallas sexual assault victim lawyers at Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP have the knowledge, resources, and skill to help clients achieve the most favorable outcome possible in these sensitive cases.

Potential Defendants Identified

Plaintiffs can bring a civil sexual assault lawsuit against any individual, organization, or institution that was directly involved or complicit in the abuse. Examples of defendants in sexual assault civil complaints may include: teachers, school districts, coaches, faith institutions, daycare providers, youth clubs, churches, and recreational sports organizations.

Evidence gathered to support a claim of sexual abuse that happened decades earlier can range from testimony from corroborating witnesses and physical evidence to eyewitness accounts. It’s worth noting that civil proceedings offer a level of control for plaintiffs, who are not obligated to testify in court.

Consult With A Skilled Sexual Abuse Victim Lawyer

If you plan to bring a lawsuit for sexual abuse you suffered as a child, you want to work with a compassionate and dedicated sexual abuse victim attorney with a proven track record handling these sensitive matters. Speak with Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP about applicable deadlines for your case – reach out to schedule a confidential case review, at no cost.