When the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team released its incredible series of articles on child sex abuse and the Catholic Church, there was hope that victims of this abuse would finally get justice. The articles inspired an Academy Award-winning movie released in 2015. It has sadly not proven inspirational for some lawmakers, who continue to frustrate efforts to help people sexually abused as children hold their attackers liable.
The Summer 2017 issue of Ohio Trial magazine contains an article written by Konrad Kircher or Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima. That article details the background of the issue in Ohio, as well as some of the efforts Mr. Kircher has made toward helping victims get access to the courts when they are ready to confront their abusers.
The Time Limit Problem
One of the main areas of concern is that the statute of limitations for bringing a claim in court does not take into account the realities faced by children who suffered sexual abuse. Before the Spotlight report, Ohio’s statute of limitations was 1 year to file a claim against the abuser as in any battery cause of action. The limit was 2 years to file a claim against any individual or group who facilitated or failed in a duty to prevent the abuse, as in a typical negligence cause of action. The time limit was “tolled” meaning extended while the victim was still a minor or of unsound mind. It was also tolled if the perpetrator left the state to avoid facing justice.
The problem is that victims of childhood sex crimes frequently suffer incredible psychological trauma. They aren’t miraculously able to address the situation just because they’ve turned 18 within the last year. The Ohio Supreme Court acknowledged this, but they’ve still refused to grant a judicial extension for these victims.
The Battle Continues
Mr. Kircher, along with many others, continues to push the issue with legislators and courts. Until survivors of child sexual abuse have full access to the remedies courts can provide, as well as the services and support they need to heal, the fight must go on.