It’s estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will suffer sexual abuse by an adult by the time they turn 18. For too many, these traumatic incidents burden them as secrets carried with them into adulthood, while abusers walk free and the organizations that enabled them are not held accountable in criminal or civil court. In recent years, so-called “lookback window” laws could change that.
A proposed Florida lookback window law would give thousands of sexual abuse victims in Florida a renewed opportunity to pursue justice. It failed this past legislative session, but lawmakers are proposing to try again next session. More than a dozen states have passed lookback window laws in recent years allowing victims of childhood sexual assault to pursue litigation against their attackers and others responsible, even decades after the abuse ended.
This most recent session, identical bills SB 946 and HB 23 would have created a one-year look-back window in Florida. Sponsors noted that 75 percent of child sexual abuse victims don’t tell anyone for at least one year. Roughly 50 percent haven’t told anyone after five years. Many are silent for a decade or more, as they grapple with a confusing mix of shame, embarrassment and pain. By the time they’re ready just to talk about it, the statute of limitations has expired.
As our West Palm Beach sexual abuse attorneys can explain, a lookback window law would change that.
Similar lookback window laws have been passed in Arizona, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Vermont, Montana and Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the lookback law window proposals in Florida didn’t get far this session. Some sexual assault survivors have criticized the measures saying they don’t do enough to cover those with decades-old cases. Others say an amendment to the state’s constitution will be necessary for any such changes to be effective.
But the bill sponsors say they’ve had no organized lobbying against the measure, save for some concern expressed by some individuals in the insurance industry. Their position was that it would be difficult from their perspective to defend decades-old claims that they weren’t expecting. Still, supporters of lookback laws say that while they likely can’t be open-ended and indefinite, it’s reasonable to open the door to, say, a 25-year-old claim.
Bill sponsors say they intend to try again next session with something that will have more inclusive language. It’s likely that high-profile child sexual abuse cases in Florida, such as those against Jeffrey Epstein and the Catholic church, will increase public will to see a lookback window law passed.
If the proposals do gain significant support, it’s likely there would be a fair amount of organized pushback. According to one legal study, the Catholic church has spent more than $10 million in the last eight years fighting child sex abuse statute of limitations reform laws in eight different states.
Florida lawmakers did pass a new statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of child sex abuse crimes, but it’s not retroactive and it doesn’t apply to civil cases.
If you suffered childhood sexual abuse in Florida and are considering legal action, our experienced, compassionate team of lawyers can help you sort through your legal options in a free, initial consultation.
Contact the South Florida sexual assault attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Florida lawmaker to push again for ‘lookback window’ allowing sex abuse survivors to sue, May 4, 2021, By Kelly Wiley, News4Jax.com
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Should I Sue for Florida Sexual Assault? Civil Injury Lawyers Can Advise. March 3, 2021, South Florida Sexual Assault Civil Lawyer Blog