Delaware Child Sex Abuse Law Establishes National Model

On July 10, 2007, Delaware passed the nation’s toughest child sex abuse legislation, eliminating the state’s two-year civil statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases and providing a two-year window, ending July 10, 2009, during which cases previously barred by the time limit can be filed.

During the past year, several adults have initiated cases against their childhood abusers and other states are watching what happens in Delaware to see how the litigation of this law unfolds.

The article to which I have linked has some quite insightful commentary, on many levels. I strongly encourage you to read it for yourself and formulate your own opinions about this issue.

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5 Responses

  1. Hmm… this stirs up some things. Last fall, when some of the things I had been through as a child really started to come up in focus (they had been there in the background, just not looked at and thought about), I got angry and looked up the statute of limitations in my state for some of the things that were done.

    I have to say that it came as a shock to my psyche when I read in black and white in the state law that what was done to me was a felony. But, my understanding of what I read lead me to believe the statute of limitation in my state was 10 years from the time the crime was identified as a crime and/or a disabling issue. For me, that time had passed.

    But I just got online and looked it up again and it seems that there is no limit for what happened if it is a criminal proceeding, not civil. I must have misread last fall. It would appear my state is a bit ahead of the curve on this? Or maybe I am reading it wrong? Much to think about…

  2. I know what you mean about them being in the background. That’s the way my memories were. It’s not like they were repressed – they were always there, in the background. I just wouldn’t look directly at them. If they popped to the surface, I stuffed them back down without looking. You know?

    The state laws regarding child abuse desperately need upgrading. And Delaware is the second state to do this. As good as it is, it is only a beginning. For instance, as good as this is, there are people now who for any number of reasons aren’t able to acknowledge it, and it’s not going to come out until 5 years from now. So then what?

    It is not uncommon for the worst cases of child sex abuse of be completely repressed until well into adulthood. So what is a 30- or 40-year-old supposed to do when their memory-less childhood resurfaces? Existing law says “too-bad-so-sad, your abuser gets to go free.” That has to change.

    But these first steps are definitely moving in the right direction. Without a start, we can never get to the finish line.

    — Danni

  3. I’m not 100% sure – I could be misinterpreting the statute, but I think in my state, the statute of limitations doesn’t even start counting down in childhood sexual abuse cases until the victim comes to the place of recognizing that they were abused and damaged by it. Then, it is 6 years for civil actions. There does not seem to be a statute of limitations if the act was criminal. The definitions between the variations are pretty clear. I’m not sure how this compares to the statutes in other states…

  4. It might be worth a phone call to the state body (whomever that might be – the DA’s office?) for clarification.

    — Danni

  5. It can be confusing to try to find out what is what. I know in my State the criminal and civil time limits are different. I alo know that the time starts running when the minor (if its a minor) becomes 18 OR when it was reported to a proper authority like protective services, police, sheriff, etc.

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