Statistics on Statutes of Limitation (SOL) for Child Sex Abuse

There are two paths to justice for children who have been sexually abused: criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of child sex abuse victims cannot prosecute or file civil lawsuits because they missed the arbitrary procedural deadline—the statute of limitations (“SOLs”)—for their claims.

Most victims miss the statute of limitations because of the disclosure delay that is common among child sex abuse victims.

Statistically, 1/3 of the victims of child sex abuse discloseas children and another 1/3 never disclose. Studies show that the average age to disclose is 52, with the median age 48.


The reasons for delay are specific to each individual, but often involve disabilities that result from the trauma (e.g., depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and alcoholism). The institutional sex abuse  scandals have  revealed callous disregard for the welfare of children.

Short statutes of limitation block justice for the victims and simultaneously protect the perpetrators and institutions.

There are  two groups of sex abuse victims to consider:

(1) the victims whose claims have expired and

(2) the children currently being abused.

Thirty-eight states including the District of Columbia, or 75%, have amended their child sex abuse statutes of limitation since January 2002. Yet, with all of the activity in the states since 2002, no state has reached the pinnacle of SOL reform, which is to simply eliminate the civil and criminal SOLs backwards and forwards. 


The future of statutes of limitation

This movement  has been very active across the United States since January 2002, when the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team first disclosed institution-based sex abuse in a trusted institution, the Boston Archdiocese. The movement has been mobilized by the appearance in the public square of victims of child sex abuse who were previously invisible to the public. 

With 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys sexually abused, the United States is home to millions of victims, and most, even today, have not disclosed the abuse to the public. While the opposition to victims’ access to justice remains strong from certain corners, it is apparent that with the #MeToo movement and a steady stream of victims coming forward, lawmakers are likely to continue to focus on SOL reform. The pace of change, based on these child sex abuse statistics, is unlikely to slow down anytime soon. 

The next frontier for CHILD USA is to study what happens when statutes of limitations are reformed and the actual effects on justice and the victims.

DONATE here to support CHILD USA's SOL Reform work


  • Window = a law that eliminates the civil SOL for all victims, even if the SOL has expired

  • Retroactive = applicable to acts that occurred before the date of enactment of the law

  • Civil Elimination = elimination of civil SOL; goes into effect according to the terms of the statute (can be retroactive or only prospective)

  • Civil Extension = extension of civil SOL by a set number of years

  • Criminal Elimination = elimination of SOL for crimes; starts running on the date the law goes into effect

  • Criminal Extension = extension of the SOL for crimes by a set number of years; starts running on the date the law goes into effect


Professor Marci Hamilton discusses child sex abuse statutes of limitations (SOL) and SOL Reform, the most effective vehicle for justice for victims.






Church abuse scandal: Man campaigns for statute of limitation reform


Critic of clergy abuse compensation program: ‘It’s a virtual black hole’ – The Buffalo News

"Administrators of a Diocese of Buffalo program to compensate childhood victims of clergy sex abuse will consider whether the diocese had "prior notice" of an alleged abuser's conduct as they determine how much money the victims should get.But it's unclear if diocesan officials are under any obligation to hand over personnel files that show whether the diocese knew a priest was prone to abuse.That's one of the compensation program's major shortcomings, according to lawyers for some of the victims.People who make claims of abuse with the diocese aren't told what information, if any, the diocese provides to program administrators."It's a virtual black hole of a protocol," said J. Michael Reck, an attorney who represents more than 30 clients who filed claims with the Buffalo compensation program."

J. TOKASZ | AUGUST 12, 2018

Hovland: Iowa's laws on child sexual abuse, endangerment need to change

A bright light needs to be shed on child sexual abuse/endangerment laws in Iowa, mainly plea deals and how they are handed out so freely.


Backing civil statute of limitations reform would be the best way bishops could help child sexual abuse victims [opinion]

"Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg held a press conference Wednesday to apologize for the sexual abuse of children by priests and others in the church over decades. The Harrisburg diocese also released a list of 71 clergy members and seminarians alleged to have sexually abused children since 1947.  LNP reported Friday that the list included the late Monsignor Francis Joseph Taylor, who served as Lancaster Catholic High School’s principal from 1958 to 1975, and the late Rev. Thomas Ronald Haney, who was the assistant to the principal at LCHS from 1961 to 1964 and directed the school’s athletic program. According to LNP records, Haney previously had served three years as assistant pastor at St. Anne Catholic Church in Lancaster; later in his life, he was known to many local Catholics as the executive editor of The Catholic Witness, the diocesan newspaper, and as a spokesman for the diocese."

B. SHAHAN | AUGUST 5, 2018