Texas House Bill 3809 to increase CSA SOLs effective September 1
We are here today because Texans need to know that the doors to justice just opened a little wider for survivors of child sexual abuse in our state.
House Bill # 3809, passed by the Texas Senate on May 2019, was the result of the emotional testimony of Becky Leach, State Rep. Jeff Leach’s wife, regarding her own abuse as a child. Even though this new law is limited in terms of applying to older cases of childhood sexual abuse, it is still a step in the right direction.
The new law, which becomes effective on September 1, 2019, gives more time for child sex abuse survivors to bring a civil lawsuit against their abuser and/or the institution that harbored him or her. It replaces the older law that only gave survivors 15 years past their 18th birthday to file a complaint. Going forward, victims now have 30 years.
In addition, an amendment to the original proposal extends the statute of limitations for a survivor who was been abused prior to this effective date, IF the old statute of limitations has not already expired by September 1, 2019. Those victims will now have 30 years past their 18th birthday, or age 48, to file a civil lawsuit.
However, to know for certain if you are beyond the statute of limitations, or if your case falls under some exception, an experienced sex abuse attorney should be consulted.
If you or someone you know may benefit from this new law, and are considering legal action, SNAP wants you to know:
- You are not alone. SNAP is a peer support group of abuse survivors willing to support you throughout your journey to justice and healing.
- Counseling after abuse by a trauma-informed counselor is key to healing. It is also recommended you continue counseling throughout any civil or criminal proceedings.
- Survivors of child sexual abuse deserve justice and compensation for the damages caused by their abuse. Civil lawsuits also can provide important information that may prevent future abuse.
Whether or not you can file an action under the new law, SNAP recommends that you report the abuse to law enforcement by calling 911, reporting to Travis County DA Margaret Moore, and Attorney General Ken Paxton. Making a report is difficult but empowering. It tracks the history of perpetrators and may give law enforcement the information they need to protect others from abuse.
SNAP supports any reform in statute of limitations that allows victims greater access to the courts. However, this new law leaves behind a majority of victims. Statistics show that the average age for an adult sexual abuse survivor to come forward to report is 52. It is time we honor these older victims who have suffered in silence for so many years. Many survivors report that they tried to report their abuse. Some were not believed or were even condemned by those they loved, or by those who should have helped them. All were re-victimized when this happened.
We believe that there should be no statute of limitations for adults who have suffered child sexual abuse. Many states, such as New York, New Jersey and Arizona have stepped up and passed new laws that provide a “window,” or a set time, for survivors of child sexual abuse to pursue civil justice no matter how long it has been since the abuse. Providing this opportunity flips the power dynamic: victims now have power over those that caused them harm and changed their lives forever.
Therefore, we are calling on Texas to develop a “look-back window” for sexual abuse victims. Members of the public can help by writing a letter to their local Senators and House Representatives to request that they support a “window to justice” in Texas.
CHILDUSA’s attorney Kathryn Robb says, “Although Texas took a step in the right direction with HB 3809, it is a baby step. This legislation is far behind the national trend of affording most victims of child abuse justice, and exposing hidden predators. This year 16 states plus the District of Columbia passed revival or window legislation. The social science data is clear-the average age victims of child sexual abuse come forward is age 52. Although this legislation extends the civil SOL to age 18 plus 30 years, given the old law, victims who are over the age of 33 are out of luck and their perpetrators can breathe a sigh of relief. Given that it is unconstitutional to retroactively change criminal SOLs, the only way to name and expose hidden sexual predators of the past is through civil revival and window legislation. Texas took a baby step towards justice, while others leaped forward. Let’s hope they can do more for victims and the safety of Texas’ children in the future.”
Let’s make sure that the doors to justice in our great state are opened all the way.