By: Ny’Tevia Brooks

Published On: May 17, 2024

“I’m Not Ready.” Words spoken by Tess Ramirez at the Topeka Kansas Statehouse, in protest of a new Kansas law.[1] Under this new legislation, Kansas requires victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers by the age of 31.[2] Tess Ramirez and other survivors shared their stories of abuse and trauma while pleading with the state to remove the statute of limitations for civil litigation.[3] The survivors detailed their personal encounters with trauma manifesting in the forms of intense migraines and nightmares, in addition to the frequent trips to the emergency room and need for medication.[4] Kim Bergman, another survivor, discussed the struggles she faced when she reported her abuse: “I learned then why so many other survivors never tell.” Bergman recounts the grueling experience of reporting the crime to the appropriate authorities and still feeling as if justice was never served. The Department for Children and Families (DCF), her coaches, and even her parents were unable to help her.[5] The prosecutor declined to press charges despite substantiated evidence.[6]

When prosecutors fail to press charges, civil litigation is an available avenue to bring abusers to the court, but in no way are civil lawsuits easier on a victim. While civil suits may provide monetary compensation from the abuser or institutions that allowed the abuse, sexual abuse plaintiffs face the same evidentiary battles and prejudices that a criminal trial may bring.[7] Further, in instances where the civil case is successful, the abuser may lack the funds to compensate the victim, which would leave the victim in the same position.[8] These pitfalls in addition to the harsh statute of limitations prevent individuals from disclosing their abuse and impede on the survivors ability to receive the justice they deserve.

The experiences faced by the brave survivors in Kansas are synonymous with many across the country. Statute of limitations for civil litigation is a procedural bar that hinders many survivors from bringing successful claims against their abusers. The statute of limitations places an undue burden on survivors to face their abusers prematurely before they have had the opportunity to grapple with the abuse they suffered. Child USA discussed in a 2020 report the concept of “delayed disclosure.”[9] In their study, they concluded that it is common for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to wait for years, often decades before disclosing the abuse they endured.[10] A myriad of factors contribute to this phenomenon, including lack of opportunity, inability to recognize abuse and a fear of retaliation.[11] For some children, reporting the abuse may place their life at risk.[12] For many children who do report, their disclosures are often ineffective.[13] Often times, their disclosures do not reach individuals who are in a position to report and/or prevent continued abuse. The report published by Child USA highlighted that in a study of over one-thousand survivors, the average age at the time of reporting the abuse was 52 years old, with males being the most reluctant to disclose.[14] The Justice Department estimates that 86% of cases are unreported.[15] The severe trauma that victims face can be life altering. Sexual abuse experienced during childhood can permanently alter a child’s emotional responses, which could lead to social anxiety, antisocial behavior, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.[16] These changes make disclosure that much more difficult.

Kansas is not the only state with statute of limitations on civil claims for childhood sexual abuse. Similar law exists in states like Arkansas, Michigan, and South Carolina.[17] In the state of Arkansas, civil claims must be filed within three years of the discovery of childhood sexual abuse.[18]  Michigan law provides that the statute of limitation is 10 years after the act.[19] Similarly, in the state of South Carolina, a civil action to recover damages arising out of a sexual abuse must commence either within 6 years after the person becomes 21 years old or within three years of discovery of the injury if discovery was delayed.[20] A comparison between these states’ statute of limitations with the research and conclusions provided by Child USA highlights how states and several others are not providing survivors with adequate time to properly come to terms with their abuse and file their claims.

However, several states have passed legislation in support of survivors’ right to delayed disclosure. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for civil cases of childhood sexual abuse have been removed completely and other states have done the same.[21] Similarly, Louisiana allows actions against a person for sexual or physical abuse of a minor, for physical abuse of a minor resulting in permanent impairment or permanent physical injury, or scarring may be filed at any time.[22] In 2023, thirty seven other states have introduced bills that would reexamine the statute of limitations for civil statutes.[23]

In response to the state of Maryland’s removal of their statute of limitations, victims are beginning to come forward regarding their abuse. Claudia McLain, a Maryland resident was sent to Charles H. Hickey school, a state-owned juvenile detention center in Baltimore at the age of 13.[24] During her time there, she experienced several instances of sexual abuse by those in charge of the facility.[25] McLain expressed the trauma she endured and how she battled depression, anxiety and even attempted to take her own life. It took 26 years for her to begin to heal from the trauma.[26] Now, 36 years later, she and other victims of sexual abuse at this institution are receiving justice.[27]

Advocates across the country are urging their lawmakers to consider the psychological implications of harsh statute of limitations for civil claims of childhood sexual abuse.[28] It is their hope to spread awareness of the challenges victims of childhood sexual abuse face. In a culture where victim blaming is prevalent and resources are scarce, the law should provide additional remedies, because “someone that victimizes a child should never be able to hide behind time.”[29]

[1]  Sherman Smith, ‘I’m not ready’: Survivors of child sex abuse ask for more time to file civil lawsuits, Kansas Reflector (Jan. 18, 2024, 11:50 AM),

[2] See  Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-523

[3] See Smith, supra note 1.

[4] See id.

[5] See id.

[6] See id.

[7] See Symone Shinton, Note, Pedophiles Don’t Retire: Why The Statute Of Limitations On Sex Crimes Against Children Must Be Abolished, 92 Chi. Kent. L. Rev 317, 331 (2017).

[8] See id.

[9]  See Delayed Disclosure : A Factsheet based on cutting-edge research on child Sex Abuse”, CHILDUSA (Mar. 2020),

[10] See id.

[11] See id.

[12]  See Symone Shinton, Note, Pedophiles Don’t Retire: Why The Statute Of Limitations On Sex Crimes Against Children Must Be Abolished, 92 Chi. Kent. L. Rev 317, 322 (2017).

[13] See Delayed Disclosure : A Factsheet Based On Cutting-Edge Research On Child Sex Abuse, CHILDUSA (Mar. 2020),

[14] See id; see also Easton, Disclosure of Sexual Abuse Among Male Survivors, 41:4 CLIN. SOC. WORK J.

344, 344 (2013)(finding that males on average delayed disclosing their abuse for an average of 21 years after experiencing abuse).

[15] See Dean G. Kilpatrick et al., “Youth Victimization: Prevalence and Implications, Research in Brief”, NIJ, (Apr. 2003),

[16] See Shinton, supra note 10 at 323.

[17] See Ark. Stat. Ann. § 16-56-130(a); see  M.C.L.A. 600.5805  ; see S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-555.

[18] See Ark. Stat. Ann. § 16-56-130(a).

[19] See  M.C.L.A. 600.5805

[20] See  S.C. Code Ann. § 15-3-555

[21] See Md. Cts. and Jud. Proc. § 5-117

[22] See id.

[23] See Adrian Diaz & Sheena Samu, New Maryland law lifts civil statute of limitations for all child sex abuse-claims, CBS NEWS, (Oct. 2, 2023, 9:35 AM),

[24]  See Adriana Diaz & Sheena Samu, “New Maryland law lifts civil statute of limitations for all child sex abuse claims”, Cbs News, (Oct. 2, 2023, 9:35 AM),

[25] See id.

[26] See id.

[27] See id.

[28]  See Sherman Smith, ‘I’m not ready’: Survivors of child sex abuse ask for more time to file civil lawsuits, Kansas Reflector (Jan. 18, 2024, 11:50 AM),

[29]  Katie McKellar, Bill Removing Statute of Limitations in Child Sexual Abuse Cases Passes Legislature, DESERET News (Mar. 11, 2015, 2:20 PM).

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