TEXAS’ HB 206: FAQs
Thank you to our allies at CHILD USA and CHILD USAdvocacy for this important information
What is HB 206?
HB 2061 is a civil statute of limitations (SOL) reform bill. It permanently eliminates the civil statutes of limitations (SOL) so that survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA) can file a civil case no matter how long ago the abuse took place, and no matter how old the survivor is. It is retroactive, reviving previously expired SOLs.
How does this differ from our current civil statute of limitations in Texas?
Texas’ current civil SOL2 was extended in 2019, from 15 to 30 years past the age of 18, or 48 years old. However, it is NOT retroactive. Our current SOL only applies to those cases of abuse “going forward,” or those cases that the old SOL (age 33) has not already expired.
What is the current Texas criminal statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse?
In 2007, Texas eradicated its criminal SOLs for most child sex abuse cases3, however, once again, this law is NOT retroactive, and applies to newer cases. Criminal SOLs cannot be reformed (such as making the law retroactive) due to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Stogner v. California4.
Why is HB 206 so important for survivors?
Since most survivors of child sexual abuse delay the disclosure of their abuse5, and the average age of disclosure of CSA is 526,Texas survivors of older abuse are typically barred from seeking justice in either criminal or civil courts. HB 206 eliminates the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits, even for those for whom the SOL expired years ago. Civil lawsuits bring accountability to both the perpetrators and the institutions that enabled them. Civil lawsuits allow compensation for the damage done by predators who steal lives and livelihoods. Although civil lawsuits may not result in a prison term or a listing on the sex offender registry, they still expose perpetrators and the associated institutions to the public, preventing child abuse. Civil lawsuits have subpoena power to obtain documents that reveal the extent and pattern of abuse, validating a survivor’s abuse claims. The effects of child sexual abuse has been estimated to cost the federal government over $9 billion dollars a year7. The adverse effects of childhood trauma have been shown in this 1998 study8 to lead to multiple high risk behaviors as adults, leading to negative impacts on lifelong health. It is time to shift the cost of child sexual abuse away from victims and taxpayers to the ones who caused it.
Why do victims wait so long to file civil lawsuits?
The neuroscience behind the trauma9 of sexual abuse explains this delayed disclosure.10 The trauma of abuse results in excess stress hormones, shutting down brain pathways, especially in the frontal cortex, the area of logic and analysis, while the amygdala puts us in survival mode. Memory is not so much “lost” as it is buried, and those memories are able to surface later in life, perhaps triggered by certain events, or with psychological treatment. In many cases, a child cannot articulate what has happened, and it may be decades after the abuse that a survivor realizes that it was abuse or understands the link between the abuse and their injuries. Delayed disclosure can also be attributed to feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and self-blame11 by the survivors. Victims are often groomed by the predator to believe it is their fault. Often perpetrators threaten to hurt family members, or the victim. There is a fear that they will not be believed, which is often the case when speaking out initially. The long-term effects of trauma from CSA are well documented in the literature .12 Depression, PTSD, chronic anxiety, suicide risk, substance use disorder and autoimmune disease are just a few of the effects. Victims of CSA are often unable to proceed with normal life functioning, much less pursue justice in a timely manner. It should never be “too late” to speak up to get justice and to get healing support.
Won’t this overload our court systems, or result in an abundance of frivolous lawsuits?
Child USA’s Marci Hamilton13 argues that there is no evidence for an overload of cases. Recent SOL reform laws confirm this. For example, the New York Child Victim’s Act resulted in ten thousand cases in this state with a population of 19 million. As of 2022, 24 states have passed revival or window legislation for expired civil claims and 15 states have eliminated all civil SOL for some or all Child Sexual Assault (CSA) claims. Any legal civil case must follow the rule of law and accountability. A conservative estimate of cases settled would be 2/314, with no burden being placed on the state justice system. When we understand how trauma affects the brain, and we see the risk of re-traumatization when pursuing justice, we see that there is nothing frivolous about a claim of childhood sexual abuse. A victim’s “lost” memory is far less a concern than an institution’s “lost,” or unobtainable documents. One example is the Catholic Church’s notoriety for record-keeping. In fact, canon law requires the Catholic Church to keep secret archives15, the documents that are key to finding past reports of abuse, “treatments” and transfers of accused predators within the church. False reporting is rare, between 2-10%16 in studies of adults, and 4-8 % 17 in studies among children. Unreported abuse 5 is far more common.
HB206 is a trauma-informed, survivor-centered bill. Say YES! To 206!
- Bill Text: TX HB206 | 2023-2024 | 88th Legislature | Introduced | LegiScan
- 80(R) HB 959 - Enrolled version - Bill Text (texas.gov)
- STOGNER V. CALIFORNIA (cornell.edu)
- Delayed Disclosure (childusa.org)
- One Year's Losses for Child Sexual Abuse in U.S. Top $9 Billion, New Study Suggests | Johns Hopkins | Bloomberg School of Public Health (jhu.edu)
- Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults - American Journal of Preventive Medicine (ajpmonline.org)
- Neurobiology of emotional trauma - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse: Delays, Nondisclosure and Partial Disclosure. What the Research Tells Us and Implications for Practice (nationalcac.org)
- Moral Injury Report | Xavier University
- Frontiers | Psychobiological Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse: Current Knowledge and Clinical Implications (frontiersin.org)
- Hamilton’s answers to the arguments raised by opponents of child sex abuse victims and SOL reform – SOL Reform (sol-reform.com)
- "What is the Settlement Rate and Why Should We Care?" by Theodore Eisenberg and Charlotte Lanvers (cornell.edu)
- Secret archives at the Vatican and in each diocese worldwide | Concordat Watch - Where to find concordats
- Myths about Sexual Assault Reports | Health Promotion | Brown University
- False allegations of sexual abuse by children and adolescents - PubMed (nih.gov)
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