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WA Bill Eliminates Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Cases


Monday, February 13, 2023   

Washington state lawmakers are considering eliminating the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases.

House Bill 1618 would revise the current three-year limitation from the discovery of child sexual abuse injuries for filing claims for damages in civil suits.

Darrell Cochran is an attorney in Tacoma and former president of the Washington State Association for Justice. He said this bill recognizes that victims might suppress memories of abuse or struggle for years before coming to come to terms with it.

"Most of us understand how traumatic it is for child sexual abuse victims," said Cochran, "and the trauma itself prevents most victims from coming forward ever. And to the extent that they do come forward, they don't come forward until very late in life."

Opponents of the bill say eliminating the statute of limitations and the ability to implement it retroactively could hurt businesses or entities that may have destroyed records and have no way to defend themselves, especially if decades old allegations are brought forward.

But Cochran said that's no consolation for victims.

"Any organization that was responsible for the health and welfare of children and truly had their soul into protecting those children," said Cochran, "should accept responsibility in those situations where they were engaged in negligence in a way that protected or retained child molesters who were harming children."

Cochran said Washington state once was a forerunner in ensuring child sexual abuse victims received justice but has fallen behind.

He said this bill would bring the state in line with national trends. A public hearing for the bill is scheduled for Thursday in the House Committee on Appropriations.

Disclosure: Washington State Association for Justice contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Housing/Homelessness, Human Rights/Racial Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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