For far too long, victims of sexual abuse in Massachusetts only had three years from the date of their eighteenth birthday to file civil tort claims arising out of incidents of sexual abuse occurring when they were minors. This three-year statute of limitations applied both to claims that the victim wished to pursue directly against the perpetrator of these horrific acts, and also to claims of negligence against the people and institutions whose negligence caused or contributed to the sexual abuse because they were responsible for hiring, supervising, and overseeing the perpetrator.
In 2015, however, the Massachusetts Legislature extended this statute of limitations so that victims of sexual abuse in Massachusetts now have at least 35 years from their 18th birthday (53 years of age) to file civil actions against perpetrators of sexual abuse and at least 7 years (up to 35 years depending on the date the harm occurred) from their 18th birthday to file civil actions seeking the recovery of damages against those people and institutions whose negligence caused and contributed to the abuse. The date a statute of limitations runs is a highly fact intensive inquiry, but the Massachusetts legislature has now ensured, in an incredibly important public policy shift, that minorivictims of sexual abuse have an appropriate period of time following their 18th birthday to advance sexual abuse claims if they wish to do so. These important changes for victims of sexual abuse are found at Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260, Section 4C & 4C ½.
Following instances of sexual abuse, it is highly common for minor victims to suppress traumatic memories or to engage in “avoidance” coping mechanisms that, tragically, can last well into adulthood. Whereas it was once too late if a victim of sexual abuse in Massachusetts waited more than 3 years after their 18th birthday to pursue civil claims for money damages related to instances of sexual abuse, the Massachusetts legislature has now recognized that victims often need a prolonged period to recover after entering adulthood before they are ready to pursue civil justice to hold people accountable for the harm they incurred.
Again, the date a statute of limitations runs is a highly fact intensive inquiry that requires a full consultation with a Massachusetts sexual abuse lawyer. Given these changes in the law, if you are a survivor of sexual abuse, never assume that it is too late to file civil claims without meeting with a Massachusetts sexual abuse lawyer who can explore all viable theories to advance a timely claim on your behalf.
Harriman Law pursues civil justice for victims of sexual abuse throughout Massachusetts, in all 14 counties. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, please call or email our office today for a free consultation concerning your civil claims.