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Home > What Is the Respect for Child Survivors Act?

What Is the Respect for Child Survivors Act?

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The government has passed several laws to protect children from institutional sexual abuse and exploitation. One of the most recent laws is the Respect for Child Survivors Act, which requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to create multi-disciplinary teams to ensure cases are never dropped and support sexual abuse victims and their families. For more information about child abuse laws and lawsuits, contact Cordisco & Saile LLC’s experienced Pennsylvania and New Jersey child sex abuse attorneys for a free consultation.

Institutional child sexual abuse—child abuse that occurs in an organizational or institutional setting such as a school, church, foster care, or sporting club—can cause lifelong emotional and physical trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual dysfunction, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

To protect children, state and federal governments have passed new laws to protect minors from institutional sexual abuse and exploitation. Pennsylvania, for instance, has a bill pending in the state Senate that seeks to open a window for statutes of limitations, which are deadlines for filing suit, for institutional child sexual abuse cases. 

The federal government has also passed the Respect for Child Survivors Act and the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022. The former ensures child sex abuse cases are never dropped, and the latter eliminates the deadline for a minor victim of a federal sex or human trafficking offense to file a related lawsuit.

If you or a loved one have suffered institutional child sexual abuse, Cordisco & Saile LLC’s experienced Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers can help you understand your options. We will thoroughly analyze your case, guide you through the legal justice system, negotiate with the opposing side to secure maximum compensation, and take your case to trial if needed.

How Childhood Sexual Abuse Can Impact Your Life

Childhood sexual abuse is any sexual contact between an adult and a child. It can also refer to an adult using a child for sexual purposes, such as child pornography and trafficking. Many perpetrators of sexual abuse are responsible for the child’s care or are in a position of trust, such as a family member, clergy member, teacher, or coach.

Childhood sexual abuse can have a broad range of short- and long-term effects, including:

  • Mental illness: Childhood sexual abuse victims are many times more likely to develop mental illnesses, such as dissociative disorders, depression, PTSD, anxiety, and personality disorders.
  • Substance use problems: Survivors may use drugs and alcohol to escape their difficult feelings and memories.
  • Self-harm: Sexual abuse victims are more likely to self-harm to cope with painful feelings. Common forms of self-harm include pulling out hair, burning, picking skin, and cutting. 
  • Eating disorders: Sexual violence can greatly impact survivors’ perceived body image. Some use food to cope with the trauma, compensate for feelings, or feel in control. Warning signs of eating disorders include preoccupation with food and calories, dramatic weight gain or loss, refusing to go out to eat, and frequent trips to the bathroom around meal times.
  • Low self-esteem: Childhood sexual abuse often causes low self-esteem, affecting many different areas of life, such as your career, relationships, and health.

Respect for Child Survivors Act Summary

The Respect for Child Survivors Act, Senate Bill 4926, is a federal law signed by President Biden in January 2023. It introduced legislation to improve how the Federal Bureau of Investigation interacts with child sexual abuse victims and witnesses in child sex trafficking and abuse cases. It is Congress’ latest effort to address the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s mishandling of the investigation of former Michigan State University gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of Nassar’s victims’ allegations in 2015, it failed to act, allowing him to continue abusing gymnasts and other minors for over a year.

The act requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use multidisciplinary teams when investigating cases involving child sexual abuse, child sexual abuse material such as child pornography, and child trafficking. The teams include investigative staff, medical personnel, mental health professionals, child advocacy center professionals, family advocacy case workers, and prosecutors. The legislation also includes new case review provisions to ensure cases are not stalled or dropped like the Nassar investigation. 

What is the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022?

The Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022 is a federal law signed by President Biden in September 2022. It abolishes the previous 10-year federal statute of limitations for several child sex abuse civil causes of action, including sexual exploitation of children, sex trafficking of children, and transportation of minors to engage in sexual conduct. 

The rationale for eliminating the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims is that children often lack the knowledge to recognize and understand the abuse. Additionally, survivors of childhood sexual abuse often wait years before telling others about the abuse due to the emotional and psychological trauma they have experienced.

This law is not retroactive and only applies to unexpired federal claims. It does not affect state law claims. However, advocacy groups are lobbying Congress to give childhood abuse survivors a temporary lookback period, allowing victims to revive claims barred by the previous statute of limitations.

Pennsylvania's New Child Abuse Bills

In January 2023, the Pennsylvania House proposed a constitutional amendment and a statute amending existing law to combat systemic child abuse. The push was a response to grand jury investigations that began in 2005 into institutional abuse within Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses. 

These bills seek to open a two-year window for systemic child sexual abuse survivors to file civil lawsuits against enablers and perpetrators. The window would be open to victims whose cases would otherwise be time-barred by the statute of limitations. They also aim to lift sovereign and governmental immunity, opening the possibility of lawsuits against school districts, the state, and other institutions.

Both proposals passed the House and are pending in the state Senate. 

How Can a Cordisco & Saile LLC Lawyer Help Childhood Sexual Abuse Victims?

A Cordisco & Saile LLC lawyer can help childhood sexual abuse victims seek compensation and justice against responsible parties. Specifically, they can:

  • Answer all of your legal questions: Our savvy lawyers will walk you through the process of filing a lawsuit. We will handle all communications and paperwork on your behalf so you can focus on seeking therapy and recovering from your trauma.
  • Investigate and gather relevant evidence: Our lawyers will build a strong case by gathering and analyzing all available evidence, such as forensic evidence, medical records, psychological reports, and witness statements. We may hire third-party experts and witnesses to bolster your case and demonstrate how much you suffered.
  • Seek maximum compensation: We will determine the maximum compensation you can receive for the emotional, psychological, physical, and sexual harm suffered by negotiating with the opposition. Depending on the facts of your case, this may include medical costs, therapy costs, pain and suffering, and lost career opportunities.
  • Represent you in court: If we cannot settle with the opposition, we can take your case to court. Cordisco & Saile LLC’s trusted trial lawyers have a track record of obtaining impressive trial case results.

Contact an Attorney at Cordisco & Saile LLC

State and federal governments have passed several bills to help childhood sexual abuse victims bring their abusers to justice. These include Pennsylvania’s new child abuse bills, the Respect for Child Survivors Act, and the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022.

That is where Cordisco & Saile LLC comes in. Our award-winning team of personal injury lawyers has recovered millions for satisfied clients in Bucks County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey, and beyond. We do not charge a cent until we win. 

Fill in our contact form today or call 215-344-7512 to book a free consultation with Cordisco & Saile, LLC’s child abuse lawyers.

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